Continued Care for Lahaina

Photo by Todd Yamashita

On March 8, nearly a dozen Molokai residents headed over to Olowalu to help their Maui neighbors with a solar energy project.

Trained by the Molokai based Ho’ahu Energy Cooperative, the Molokai energy techs constructed a solar energy system from the ground up, explained one of the project coordinators, Todd Yamashita. The solar energy system, complete with panels, batteries and inverters, will go to support four tiny homes intended for displaced kupuna from the devastating Lahaina fires last August.

“This is an outcome of what happens when you empower our local Molokai people,” explained Yamashita.

The “strike mission,” as Yamashita called it, was the result of months of planning with Eddy Garcia, an off-the-grid farmer located near Lahaina in Olowalu.

Yamashita had heard Catherine Cluett Pactol’s story on Hawaii Public Radio about Garcia’s initiative to bring hundreds of tiny homes to Maui to house displaced fire victims.

“When I heard Catherine’s story, I called Eddy up immediately,” said Yamashita.

Yamashita and 10 other Molokai trained energy technicians were ferried to Maui by boat captain Chris Mangca through a 25-knot headwind across the Pailolo Channel. Sleeping on cots in a shipping container, the trip espoused a quintessentially Molokai tough attitude.

Photo by Todd Yamashita

“Our Molokai people, they loved it,” said Yamashita.

Garcia is the executive director of nonprofit Regenerative Education Centers, which now focuses on serving victims of the Lahaina fire through hundreds of off-grid tiny homes and regenerative agriculture.

“We’re giving people what I call complete, tiny homesteads,” said Garcia, “which consists of a container, deck, roof, bathroom, kitchen and solar system.”

The solar energy system “makes for way more resilient communities,” he added. “We should be off the grid…We shouldn’t be relying on electric companies. We’ve seen it burn our town down.”

With the first displaced families already having moved in, Garcia’s initiative is “teaching you how to live like Molokai people do,” he explained. “We want to live close to the land.”

The hope is to eventually house thousands of Maui residents, many of whom are still living in hotels.

Having grown up bouncing between Lahaina and Molokai, Garcia spent over 30 years farming on Molokai.

“It’s a strong connection for me between Molokai and Lahaina,” he said. “I know most of those [Molokai volunteers], or I know their families…We need to come together and stay together, so that the outsiders don’t dictate how our community grows.”

Garcia’s Regenerative Education Centers has volunteer opportunities every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, with several MEO positions available as well.

Molokai residents can learn more about Regenerative Education Centers at recenters.org.


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