Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson promised $10 million for victims of the Maui wildfires


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,- The swing set that used to be a feature of her Lahaina house is now only a memory, destroyed by the wildfires that devastated her neighbourhood this summer. Lana Vierra is heartbroken.

Generations of kids played in our front yard with the swing set', she said. "All kinds of animals, from goats and deer to turtles, were prowling about that little place."

From 1991, Vierra, a mother of five and a grandma of four, has lived on the corner lot. But her life was completely upended by the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century, which forced her and eleven family members—including a baby only a year old—to flee. They looked for help from a number of places afterward, including the People's Fund of Maui, a lifeline started by Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey.

The People's Fund sent Vierra and her family six $1,200 monthly payments, straight into their bank accounts, with the exception of one adult son. Though their home was reduced to ashes, these contributions proved to be crucial in enabling them to make their mortgage payments. It was a great comfort to know that we had that safety net in the back of our minds, Vierra said. We possibly saved our house because to it.

Given their significant wealth and Maui mansions, Winfrey and Johnson's $10 million project received both praise and condemn. But their need for help was answered, as the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) raised an astounding $60 million to help wildfire victims.

Photo by : Jae C .Hong

The EIF handled the finances and between September and February provided financial assistance to about 8,100 persons. Though the exact contributions of Winfrey and Johnson are yet unknown, their substantial support was obviously felt. More than 20,000 individuals and organisations advanced the cause.

Every penny Vierra's family has received from the People's Fund, a GoFundMe campaign, or generous strangers has been carefully saved. Rebuilding their life is an illusive goal among the debris of their former home.

They have a lot of grounds for gratitude to the local relief agencies and philanthropists who supported them early on. In those critical weeks after the catastrophe, Maui attorney Lance Collins thinks community solidarity was key.

Still, things are not easy. Vierra's family is mostly housed in hotels, a temporary solution in an already overstretched housing market before the fires drove 12,000 people from their homes. Hotel visitors are growing more and more worried about their mental health, according to supporting charities.

In reaction, in January the state and county governments, along with many organisations like the Hawaii Community Foundation and FEMA, committed $500 million to build 3,000 temporary housing units. The Foundation's Maui Strong fund is supporting this project, which emphasises a bigger effort towards long-term healing and resilience.

Contributing suggestions to the People's Fund design was Seabury Hall fundraising specialist Kaimana Brummel. Speaking for the concept of "kahiau," or giving freely and without expectation, she pushed for personal financial donations.

For therapist and lifetime Lahaina resident Barry Probst, rebuilding his life could take until 2026. He is receiving trauma therapy training thanks to the individuals's Fund because he wants to help individuals in his community. Like many others, he is still reminded every day of the need of perseverance in the face of adversity by the August 8th events.

(Newsline Paper Teams)

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