(BIVN) – During the Office of Hawaiian Affairs meeting in Hilo on Thursday, the Board of Trustees heard directly from a beneficiary who lost her Kapoho home in June due to the eruption of Kilauea Volcano.
“I want to thank the OHA Board of Trustees for allocating funds to help fellow Hawaiians in the Puna area affected by the 2018 lava flow,” said Terrilee Kahealani Kelii Meeker, who stood up to address the Board inside the Haleʻōlelo building on the campus of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani.
Meeker said she was born and raised in Hilo and “spent many happy days at my uncle’s place in Kapoho” before later realizing her dream to make her ocean-side home there in 2005. “Kapoho was absolutely magical. Beautiful. With blue
skies and calm ocean breezes,” she said, calling it her “heaven on Earth” where she appreciated every sun rise.
Then in May 2018, the eruption of Kilauea Volcano came to the lower East Rift Zone. “On May 28th, the electrical power and telephone to Kapoho went out,” Meeker said. “Then at 1:30 a.m., we heard loud noises coming from police vehicles and people calling out, ‘get out now! The lava will be here in four hours!’ I grabbed my pack bag, and my animals. My husband and I went door-to-door to make sure that everyone was up and getting ready to leave. We actually woke some neighbors up and made sure that they knew to leave as we drove out of Kapoho.”
“I stopped to talk to a police officer and he told me that once you leave that they would not let us back into our home,” Meeker said.
The lava flow slowed that night and later, Meeker and her husband were able to return to their Kapoho home two more times in order to collect a few more precious items: photo albums, paintings, stuff from her grandma. “I wish I grabbed more,” she said.
They were allowed back in for the last time on Friday, June 1st. “I cleaned up my refrigerator because I didn’t want to come home to maggots,” Meeker said. “How crazy is that? We believed in our hearts that Pele would save Kapoho, and we would be able to come home.”
“On June 4th, the lava flow came and it is now all gone,” Meeker said. “I have heard that my home is 100 feet under lava and we are now one mile away from the new shoreline.”
Meeker thanked the grassroots Puʻuhonua O Puna effort, which provided her with a sleeping bag “that I slept in for maybe two months.”
“I’m in here to tell my story and help my fellow Hawaiians and the people of Puna,” Meeker told the OHA Trustees. “We need more funding, please. And we very much need roads that will allow us to get to our Puna properties. We need access to Cape Kumukahi as a cultural site. I hope that the OHA Board of Trustees can allocate more money to this worthy cause. Please help us in any way you can.”
The Office of Hawaiian Affiars has already provided financial relief. OHA’s Pouhana, Kamana’opono Crabbe, explained to the those in attendance that OHA partnered with the Neighborhood Place of Puna to work with the area residents, especially in Leilani Estates, who were affected by the eruption. “Our first priority was really to assist those families who were part of the Mandatory Evacuation Proclamation by the governor,” Crabbe said, “and who actually lost their home. A second priority went to those in the same area but who left voluntarily. And then the third priority was really others who were in the Puna district area.”
Crabbe said the board approved $250,000, and OHA was served 116 Native Hawaiian households, who each received a thousand dollars to help them in the recovery.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs we continues to meet with the Hawaiʻi County task force convened by the mayor, Crabbe said, as well as at the governor’s level with respect to a number of issues, like housing and coordinating social services for those families who have been affected.
Meeker, meanwhile, hopes that someday she will hold hands with her granddaughter and niece, as they “go back to our property in Kapoho and once again watch the sun rise.”