Gifts to live on: Caring for children after the Maui fires

This article was first published by and is reprinted with permission from Week of Compassion, the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. It features Judi Frost, a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who is a volunteer with Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a ministry of the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries:

When gale-force winds rushed along the mountains of Maui, they brought down power lines, ignited grasslands, and contributed to what has become “America’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century.” An extremely dry summer, strain on the island’s water resources, and winds as a result of the simultaneous Hurricane Dora, exacerbated the flames, and the toll on land and people continued to mount.

More than 100 lives were lost, and 1,500 evacuated to shelters as at least 2,200 structures were destroyed (85 percent of them residential). Hundreds of families were placed in emergency temporary housing, including several thousand hotel and vacation rentals secured to house those displaced, but months later, many such agreements are expiring. With housing already at a premium on the island prior to the fire, finding “temporary” housing solutions is a significant challenge, especially as rebuilding will be a years-long process.

Children’s Disaster Services rapidly deployed a team of volunteers, offering a compassionate response and care focused on children, as parents navigated the first days of reaction and recovery. Judi Frost is a member of the Week of Compassion Board of Stewards and a trained and experienced CDS volunteer. She deployed with an early CDS team to set up a center for children to be cared for while parents who have finally found some temporary shelter begin to ponder what’s next.

“Then they are able to start exploring resources,” Judi says. “Sometimes the parents check the kids in with us so they can have an opportunity to talk with each other in private about their concerns…. One father who couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from his children while he was just around the corner in the resource center saw Luca [a white macaw, injured and rescued from the fires], asked what was happening with him, then went over and stood silently by Luca’s cage for 15 minutes. He found a shady spot and stayed to watch his children play with us for a while. It’s hard to imagine the depth of this tragic reality. And we get to witness the commitment and compassion of the hundreds of people who are here to offer…something.”

Local government estimates for long-term recovery are close to $6 billion dollars, with a years-long timeline taking shape. The emotional and spiritual impacts on communities devastated by loss of life, loss of cultural and historical items, and the trauma of first-responder teams will be significant and ongoing.


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