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Exploring Voluntourism

I recently went on vacation in Kaanapali, Maui.  After the devastating fires, I really struggled with going.  We have a timeshare and go every year and what happened in Lahaina hurt my heart so much that I felt it would be wrong to go there and enjoy myself while so many people were suffering.  Many are still homeless, unemployed and hungry.


It has been seven months since deadly wildfires swept through Lahaina, killing 100 people, and destroying the historic town, as well as homes in West Maui.  In the immediate aftermath of the fires, officials discouraged all non-essential travel to West Maui, where Lahaina is located. And visitor arrivals for the whole island dropped precipitously – last August, it was down almost 58% from August the previous year.   

The recovery is slowly moving ahead.  More than 3,500 people remain living in hotels set up as emergency shelters, the cleanup of ash just got started at the end of January, and although West Maui opened to tourists last October, tourism – the backbone of the economy for Lahaina as well as Maui – is still struggling to reboot in trying circumstances.

After talking to my family, I decided we should still go because they need the influx of tourist dollars (we tried to focus on spending at local businesses and tipping generously), but I also decided I wanted to volunteer at least one day with my daughter to do something physical to help.  So, we volunteered to spend a day prepping and packing meals for Hungry Heros Hawaii - - we prepped 400 meals that day and met some awesome people. 


It was physical work, but so rewarding.  My daughter and I talked about having a voluntourism perspective when planning vacations, which I plan to embrace for vacations going forward.  I am so blessed to be able to afford to take vacations, it just feels right to also leave the place better for me having been there (even if it’s a very small contribution in the grand scheme of things).


If anyone is visiting Maui in the near future, I encourage you to consider volunteering – not only will you feel great about it, you will get a more intimate feel for life on Maui and the people who call it home. 

The following list was provided courtesy of Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club:


  • Hungry Heroes Hawaii – – Volunteer Forms available online - Partnered with Chef Hui providing quality meals, Hua Momona Farms.

  • Common Ground Collective – - Volunteer Forms available online – Providing thousands of meals per day.

  • Boots on the Ground Maui – – Learn more about needs on their website. Providing free aid to those displaced or mourning.

  • Pacific Birth Collective – – Connecting expecting mothers and families with young children with needed resources.

  • Maui Rapid Response – - Volunteer Forms available online.



(to be continued)



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