The State of Hawaii is an archipelago of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2,400 miles from the shores of mainland USA. With its lush vegetation, pristine beaches, and mild tropical climate, Hawaii could well be America’s paradise. Native Hawaiians are known for their friendly nature and kindness, flowing from humanistic values such as aloha (love and compassion), mālama ‘āina (respect and caring for the land), lōkahi (unity, harmony), ‘laulima (working together), kōkua (assistance with no expectation of something in return) and kuleana (responsibility). If there was ever a State where Tzu Chi’s philosophy fits in, Hawaii is it.
A group of Honolulu physicians and volunteers established Tzu Chi USA’s Pacific Islands Region Chapter here in 1996. Our base is on Oahu, the 3rd largest island whose name means “The Gathering Place”, and volunteers have been gathering here ever since. In fact, our arrival was timely, since this paradise may no longer be what it seems.
Our chapter serves Hawaii, American Samoa, Saipan, Guam, Micronesia, and Marshall Island. It is there with disaster relief in the region, and was on the ground in American Samoa when flooding ravaged its north shore in 1998. Our small but hardy group of volunteers, whose numbers keep growing, is also particularly active close to home, where poverty, hunger and homelessness are rampant.
In 2014’s State of Homelessness in America Report, Hawaii ranked highest among all states for homeless people per capita, with three-quarters of the homeless living on Oahu. Hawaii also ranked second for states where poverty is worse than it seems, and the cost of living is impossible to afford for many. Our volunteers bring relief to those in need and distress due to poverty. We routinely feed the homeless, provide free medical services, and collaborate with the American Red Cross on shelter operation. Our chapter is also on the forefront of recycling efforts, creating public awareness and literally cleaning up the garbage left behind by tourists on beaches and popular sites.
We are working tirelessly on many fronts to make sure this paradise is not lost for good.