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  • Elaine Berberich

Maui Receives Help from Red Cross Volunteers

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

North Carolina residents are familiar with being the recipients of disaster relief efforts, especially in the aftermath of Florence. One organization that is always “on the ground” and helping those in need is the American and the International Red Cross. Clara Barton established the Red Cross in 1881, and the first disaster relief efforts were in Michigan, aiding victims of forest fires. The Red Cross is such a large organization that they have perfected their operation and efficiency regarding disaster relief.

Carol at Haleakala National Park in Maui.

Fairfield Harbour resident Carol Frysiek recently returned from helping with the disaster and devastation in Maui, Hawaii, for three weeks. Carol has been active with different mission groups for many years, including New Orleans and Picayune, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and many trips to impoverished communities in West Virginia. She was drawn to disaster relief in Abaco, Bahamas where she helped with damaged homes and worked with the World Central Kitchen. Her first experience with the Red Cross was helping with the devastating tornados in Mississippi this year.

After donating to the blood drive, she looked into working with the Red Cross. She not only decided to take volunteer training for the blood drives but to train for the disaster relief program. Carol stressed that the Red Cross has training programs for many different programs and utilizes many different talents. A bonus is that the Red Cross pays all the expenses for those who may be on a limited income and want to volunteer.

Many people have had the opportunity to travel and enjoy the exquisite beauty of our 50th state, but the recent fires in Maui caused a dramatic difference with widespread evacuations and damage to many homes and businesses, killing over 100 people.

Carol related her first-hand experiences helping with the efforts of the Red Cross on the island.

Flying into Hawaii

She flew into Honolulu three days after the fire and spent her first night in the convention center, which was operating as both a client shelter and a staff shelter. One of the first goals of the Red Cross is to get disaster victims into their accommodations. Carol reported for duty the next morning and was put on the night shift, helping run a smaller shelter for the 12 people at the conference center without homes. The work involves helping clients with whatever is needed, including listening and emotional support, finding out what they need and helping them to obtain it, and identifying their short-term goals. Carol put it well when she said, “Sometimes they just need a person to hold their hand and listen attentively.”

Carol's cot in the Convention Center

After Honolulu, Carol flew to Maui and spent another night in a church staff shelter, sharing a bathroom with 25 people and no showers! She pointed out that if you want to volunteer, you have to be prepared for a certain amount of hardship, sometimes without water and electricity, but the rewards of helping are immeasurable. Lahaina was Carol’s next stop, where volunteers were able to help over 500 homeless Hawaiians find temporary housing and meals in a luxury resort, which was a welcome relief after losing their homes to the devastating wildfires. The Red Cross actually has housed 7600 people in Lahaina in many different resorts. After this, she went to another location in Lahaina, where she established another shelter and helped clients obtain their own housing. Normally, volunteers get one day off per week, but the need was so great in Hawaii that the time was limited. However, Carol did get to spend one day in Haleakala National Park, which is a dormant volcano, and described it as “ quite beautiful.” The highlight of her trip was finding a pair of flip-flops and giving them to a homeless man who had been walking around the resort with no shoes for three days.

A respite for homeless Hawaiians

When Carol manages to stay home, she enjoys her time in Fairfield Harbour kayaking. playing pickleball, and enjoying her many friends. She is originally from England, grew up in the Bahamas, moved to the US in 1986, and worked in Northern Virginia until retiring to Fairfield Harbour in 2014.

Carol immediately volunteered when she heard about the need on a local radio station during Hurricane Katrina. She highly recommends that anyone with a heart for volunteering should join the Red Cross, which provides training and the ability to choose the location, and it costs nothing but your time. Deployments are usually 2-3 weeks. As Carol said, “ The rewards you receive in doing this work will be even greater than those you give to the people you serve.” It has been said that with community, individuals can move mountains. The Red Cross is indeed an example of this.

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