Kalaupapa Talk Story Session Brings `Ohana Together

Non-profit helps topside residents learn about their connection to Kalaupapa.

Ka`Ohana O Kalaupapa’s event allowed the community to come together and talk story about those who have became a part of Kalaupapa’s history.

By Zalina Alvi

Laura Tolloefson knew her great-grandfather had been sent to live in Kalaupapa, but she didn’t know his grandmother was also a resident, until she was given an opportunity to talk story with other residents and family members at an event hosted by Ka`Ohana O Kalaupapa last Thursday at Home Pumehana.

The five-year-old nonprofit organization held the talk story session for those who believed they had family members who were sent to live at the peninsula settlement.

Ka`Ohana board member Makia Malo said part of the goal of the organization, as well as the day’s event, was “so society don’t forget them.”

A list of 200 people who were sent from topside Molokai to Kalaupapa was made available, and anyone who wanted to share their experiences or ask questions was welcomed. Patients, family members, descendents, and friends were on hand to discuss the true value and meaning of Kalaupapa and its residents.

“People know about Kalaupapa, but they don’t really know about it,” said Tolloefson.

Those with Hansen’s Disease (also known as leprosy) were forcibly taken from their families and homes during the mid 1800’s to live in Kalaupapa. Approximately 7,200 people died in the settlement, and about 90 percent of those were of Hawaiian ancestry. The exile was eventually repealed in 1969.

The members of Ka`Ohana O Kalaupapa are dedicated to promoting the value and dignity of every one of the individuals who were sent there in exile. It was established in 2003 to support the community, make sure that the voices of the residents are included in decisions that impact Kalaupapa, and guarantee that the history is accurately passed down to future generations.

Four Kalaupapa residents are members of the Board of Directors: Makia Malo, Gloria Marks, Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa and Pauline Chow. The original 13-member board was chosen by a group of Kalaupapa patients.

Ka`Ohana O Kalaupapa will be hosting similar talk story sessions on Oahu in late October and the rest of the islands next year. For more information on the organization visit www.kalaupapaohana.org or email info@kalaupapaohana.org.

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