New Molokai Crisis Counselors Train to Serve Maui Nui

By Jack Kiyonaga, Editor 

Photo by Arianna Patterson.

“Sometimes we don’t see our own strengths,” said Kanoe Davis, executive director of nonprofit Ho’aka Mana. “We can affect change even from our little island.” 

Davis, along with five other Molokai community members, recently received crisis counselor training to better serve the residents of Maui Nui. 

Following the devastating August fires on Maui, Davis said FEMA reached out to her in the hopes of training more crisis counselors. The goal was to help those who had suffered losses from the fires, but also continue to strengthen the ability of all Maui County residents to face adversity. Davis answered the call, putting together a training session for Molokai residents through Ho’aka Mana. 

Davis explained that training crisis counselors went hand in hand with the organization’s mission to strengthen Native Hawaiian and indigenous self-identity. 

“Our focus is around mental health and wellbeing, self-determination, strengthening self-identity and building skill sets with people,” explained Davis. 

The two-day training took place at the Kuha’o Business Center, Sept. 25 and 26. 

While specifically intended to help residents on Maui post-fires, the newly trained crisis counselors will be available on Molokai and Lanai as well for “any type of crisis that needs immediate attention,” said Davis. 

“Although we are on Molokai, our goal is to service Molokai, Lanai and Maui,” said Davis. “The reason why we are here on Molokai doing this work, is we want to open this up to any crisis, family crisis, mental health crisis or trauma.”

The counselors will work on “rebuilding this establishing of aloha, establishing of trust and security,” she explained. “Our job is just to listen and hear the needs of our community.”

For Davis, having these training sessions on Molokai means that Molokai’s gifts will impact those in need. 

“Our resilience and our resourcing abilities are profound,” she explained.  

Troy Freitas was one of the trainers for the Molokai crisis counselors. 

According to Freitas, a crisis counselor is “somebody who essentially goes out into the community and offers help to people as they want help.” 

This could look like aiding people in figuring out what resources are available to them, what gives them personal strength, and what they need to recover. 

Crisis counselors offer assistance on a “person-to-person basis,” explained Freitas. “It’s not going to be forced on people, just really asking people would you like help.”

One of the Molokai trainees, Correna Pawn Simao, explained that she hoped to act as an intermediary for affected communities, especially the deaf community in Lahaina. 

According to Simao, about 15 members of the deaf community in Lahaina were impacted by the fires. 

“I’m passionate about helping people,” explained Simao. “People need somebody to help them get out of the crisis that they’re in, or an emotion they’re feeling.”

For Simao, being someone who can communicate both with hearing and deaf communities means that she can better serve those who might be having a hard time. 

“We are here…come out and talk to us,” said Simao. 

The new crisis counselors will be sent every week to Maui to help residents in Lahaina and Central Maui. 

Molokai residents can be on the lookout for community outreach workshops and events from Ho’aka Mana and the crisis counselors to support Maui families.


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