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Ground Breaking for Kalaupapa Memorial

Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa News Release

The land where the Kalaupapa Memorial will be located was blessed and ground was broken during the annual meeting of Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa, April 24 and 25.

“We have dedicated the ‘aina for our Memorial,” announced Boogie Kahilihiwa, President of the `Ohana, after an emotional procession to the site on the grounds of the former Baldwin Boys Home in Kalawao.

Kalaupapa resident John Arruda, who was sent to Kalaupapa in 1945, then called for a groundbreaking. Using a fallen branch from nearby, he dug into the ground along with Kahilihiwa who dug with the points of the ski poles he was using as walking sticks.

“We want to see this Memorial while we’re alive,” said Arruda. “I’m 91. Am I going to see it?”

The Memorial will list the names of the estimated 8,000 people who were sent to Kalaupapa because of government policies regarding leprosy (also called Hansen’s disease). Fewer than 1,000 of those who died currently have marked tombstones.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation that authorized Ka `Ohana O Kaluapapa to establish the Memorial. The `Ohana has since been working with Kalaupapa National Historical Park and the Department of Land and Natural Resources on compliance requirements and other issues.

Everyone attending the meeting – including eight of the nine Kalaupapa patients who were in the settlement at the time – signed a petition urging that the process to build the Memorial be expedited with the mutual cooperation of the `Ohana, Kalaupapa National Historical Park and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“We’ve waited long enough,” said a tearful Gloria Marks, President of the Kalaupapa Patients Advisory Council and a member of the `Ohana Board of Directors. “How much longer?”

Of the 51 signatures on the petition of those attending the `Ohana meeting, 44 were  Kalaupapa residents or family members.

Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa is a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization made up of Kalaupapa residents, family members and longtime friends. Since 2003, the `Ohana has supported the community in various ways. The `Ohana has advocated for community needs, helped hundreds of families reconnect to their Kalaupapa ancestors, produced educational materials and developed outreach programs for schools and the public that have gone across the islands.

Kalaupapa residents asked the `Ohana to make establishing the Memorial a priority. Kahilihiwa said the community has been seeking a Memorial since 1985.

“Many of our people who wanted this Memorial have died,” he said.

For more information contact: Valerie Monson, Coordinator, Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa, 808-573-2746 or vmonson@kalaupapaohana.org

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