Jena Miller, The Maui Daily
Maude Cummings, Family Life Center – Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Ashley Kelly, Family Life Center – Chief Operating Officer
Miller: Can you tell us what’s happening today?
Cummings: We have embarked on an ambitious plan to set up temporary emergency shelter housing with a home like feel. And we’re receiving the first shipment of units today.
Miller: Who did you partner up in particular with to make all of this happen?
Kelly: We first engaged on the day after the fires. We were in contact with several organizations. Bethel Global Response had reached out. They let us know about a new product that is called Continest that provides emergency shelter. They pop up the units literally in 3 to 5 minutes with two men and a forklift. They were the first shelter in place in Ukraine. They are partners with NATO. The World Health Organization used this organization to create a hospital in Uganda. But what we really liked about the product was the flexibility that you could attach multiple units to make them really large for multigenerational families. Or you could use a single pod for an elderly couple or an individual. We also like the flexibility that we could add bathrooms and kitchens, which we’ve been uncompromising in. Most shelters pop up, they look like sheds or tents and usually have communal bathroom and we wanted our vision for this project to have something that felt like home. While it is temporary, we wanted something where they can feel like they have more of their own space, they can cook their meals, and they can use the restroom. Continest was the best product that we found that would be able to deliver on all of those needs that we had for this project.
Miller: There are about 60 units that are coming. Are there any are you planning to have any more come in the near future?
Kelly: We purchased 60 units. This is the first shipment. We were able to get them flown in. The Hungarian government sponsored a NATO aircraft to bring them in. But we need more aircraft. Very large cargo planes is what we need. I think in total units will probably need 250, but we’re combining them to create homes. So it looks like it’ll create maybe 100 homes, 100 dwellings. We are wanting to purchase more. We need more shipment. Even for the 60 that we did purchase, we’d like to get them up quick and using a freighter just takes time, so that’s what we are hoping that we could accomplish and get this word out to see if others could sponsor us by providing the cargo planes that we need to get them here.
Miller: For this shipment in particular, where did your funding come from?
Cummings: We are trying to do this project entirely with privately donated funds. We did get an initial installment from the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Maui Strong Fund. We have asked for an additional amount. We also already had some funding from what’s called the Day 1 Families Fund from Amazon, Jeff Bezos, that we’re using in the interim because it is assisting families. That is our primary target. And so we anticipate that in total the project will probably be around $10 million. So we are way short of that goal. So we really need to raise additional funds.
Miller: It’s heartwarming because, you know, a lot of people are from around the world, they’re donating. And it’s nice that they’re seeing where this money is going. And it’s going towards a good cause and now we know, okay, this is really going to someplace that really, really needs it. Now, you mentioned families and individuals. There are people that were able to escape with their pets. How do you feel about that? And are you allowing pets in these structures?
Cummings: We have not formalized we’ve run shelters before. That’s always been a concern. And previously we have allowed pets. So we haven’t built that into our plan yet. But we are looking at that because we want it to be a home-like atmosphere. We want to see all the needs that are out there and be sure that we address them so that nothing is a barrier.
Miller: What are the dimensions that you first start off with and then how large can it get? These units?
Kelly: The units are 8′ x 20′ and you can attach an unlimited number. The unit itself is 8′ x 20′ but we’re adding the kitchen and bathroom. And like I said, we’re joining the units together. We literally broke ground 11 days after the fire started. This is moving really quickly so we don’t have all the information. You can find more information by visiting continest.com. Also, for those who are interested in donating, you can visit our website at flcmaui.org. and at the top of the page there’s a banner to donate directly to this cause.
Miller: What is one thing that you want the community to know and how can they help?
Cummings: I would like the community to know that this effort has been possible because of the amazing amount of hours that people across the island, outside of the island, even Hungary, they’re just chomping at the bit, wanting to help. The whole world wants to help. And so they’re literally sending their people, sending their equipment, offering their time. And hundreds of hours have already gone in there. King’s Cathedral and Chapels owns the property. They have allowed us to be there. And so everyone has just been so willing to help and wanting to help.
Kelly: It’s so true. Everyone just coming together and all this, that’s really what’s allowing this to move so expeditiously. I think we also just want to say that we’re all in this together. It’s a blessing to be able to give back to this community which has given us so much. And we just ask for prayers. Pray for us during this. We really need the Lord through this all to keep us strong and continue connecting all these resources in our community like it’s been flooding in.