ʻYou have no idea how much your support means to all of us’

Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association members thanked educators from across the country for coming to their aid following devastating wildfires last August.

Nearly 100 members are in Philadelphia this week representing Hawaiʻi at the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly (RA), the world’s largest democratic deliberative assembly. Thousands of educators from across the country are discussing issues impacting public education and labor, and setting NEA policy and goals for the year ahead.

On day one of the RA, HSTA President Osa Tui, Jr., HSTA Maui Chapter President Mike Landes, and nearly a dozen Maui educators stood before the assembly’s 7,000 delegates and recalled how nearly one year ago, on Aug. 8, 2023, wildfires tore through West Maui, killing 102 people — including three students — and destroying thousands of homes and businesses, as well as King Kamehameha III Elementary in Lahaina.

“Mahalo to all of our NEA ʻohana for your unprecedented outpouring of support and generosity for our members and retirees in the days, weeks, and months following the fires,” Tui said.

More than 300 people and organizations donated over $434,000, with $50,000 collected through a crowdfunding campaign organized by NEA Member Benefits.

The money supported HSTA’s fire relief efforts, from supply caravans and crisis response gatherings to relief payments for affected members and retirees.

“I will forever be grateful to all of you who have helped,” said Landes, Maui Chapter president. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations were collected and given to our members to help them begin the process of rebuilding their lives.”

Landes said, “Our local HSTA leaders are now looking into ways we can provide assistance to our fire-impacted members as they navigate the great unknown in the new phases of debris removal and rebuilding, which are likely to take many years.”

A special banner at the state’s designated seating area echoed the message of gratitude, covered with signatures of Hawaiʻi delegates. Members also handed out stickers to fellow delegates on the convention floor to thank them.

“You have no idea how much your support means to all of us as our friends, families, and students continue to navigate through the tragedy,” Landes said.