Kalaupapa Celebrates Aloha
The small, isolated community of Kalaupapa didn’t let their size stop them from throwing a grand party on Sept. 1 for the settlement’s third annual Night of Aloha. Patients, staff and topside folk celebrated with festive music, hula and stomachs full of ono food.
“It went absolutely beautiful,” said Ziana Kaulia, a Department of Health employee who organized the event. Kaulia said she started the event in 2008 after hearing some of Kalaupapa’s patients talk about the Aloha Weeks they used to have decades ago.
“They were never able to participate in the court,” Kaulia said. “That’s why I wanted to start something like this, so the patients could participate and be in the court.”
Although there was no royal court this year, the beat still went on. The night began at sunset with the traditional opening pule, followed by hula performances and live music from local bands such as Sunset of Kalaupapa.
Neither winds nor sore feet could stop about 25 topside attendees who traveled down the winding pali trail to join the celebration. A hula halau of all men also made the trip to perform three dances for the audience.
“Oh, our topside friends were so good,” said patient Ivy Kahilihiwa, who served last year as Mo`i Wahine, or queen, of the royal court. “Everybody had so much fun.”
The women of Kalaupapa were also taught hula and took the stage with a glowing spirit.
“They did so well,” said Keahu Kaiama, a topside resident who taught the women a few numbers. “They danced with true aloha.”
After being treated to a traditional Hawaiian feast, the party quickly snuck past midnight as patients and their families danced to the tunes of local music.
“We’re celebrating our culture,” Kahilihiwa added. “On Aloha Night everybody is family. We all come together.”
In other Kalaupapa news, peninsula employees and residents revisited their emergency plans on natural disasters last week when a team of trained experts flew in to give hands-on training and tips.
About once a year, Toby Clairmont, director of emergency services for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, and his team visit Kalaupapa to ensure emergency plans are in place and operative.
“In case of a natural disaster, we are the team that would respond,” Clairmont said. “So we help [Kalaupapa] with preparedness and make sure they have sufficient resources.”
They explored the scenario of a wild fire, and different ways it could be approached should the settlement fall victim to one. The community also participated in a fire drill.
“It could happen because the wind blows from top to bottom,” said Mark Miller, Department of Health administrator to the settlement. “Our first priority would be getting the patients to safety.”
Miller said because of the ongoing flux of visitors and staff who travel to and from topside Molokai, he isn’t always sure who is at the settlement.
“That’s why it’s important that visitors follow the proper protocol,” he added.