Trip Number: 13053A
Staff: Ruth Morton
- Work and stay on Molokai's dramatic and isolated Kalaupapa peninsula
- Learn the remarkable history of this 'lava leaf' National Historic Park
- Enjoy the beauty of verdant, imposing sea cliffs and blue Pacific waters
- Swim or snorkel in dock-side waters with varied fish species
- Four nights lodging in the Kalaupapa settlement, and all meals
- Charter air transportation from Maui to Molokai
- Work with National Historic Park employees on outdoor projects
“This was a trip of a lifetime on so many levels. Suffice it to say
that it moved me mentally, spiritually and physically!” - 2012 trip
Photo: Dick Schmidt
Volunteers on this trip have a unique opportunity to experience what few others
The peninsula of Kalaupapa occupies a special place in the history of the Hawaiian
Islands. For many years this was the place to which Hansen's disease (leprosy)
victims were banished to live in isolation from family and friends for the rest
of their lives. Father Damien (now Saint Damien) and many others lived and worked
in the colony to serve the patients, advocate for changes, and make patients'
lives more bearable. Now, former patients live at Kalaupapa, coming and going
as they choose. The cure of this disease has affected many. In Hawaii's ohana-based
(family) society, exclusion was an extremely difficult burden to bear, affecting
both the victims and their families on other islands. Discrimination against
families was common in the early 20th century when there was great ignorance
and fear of leprosy.
Geographically, Kalaupapa is an isolated leaf-like flow of lava extending into
the windward Pacific coastline. Its several miles of coast are a combination
of tide pools, rocky shorelines, and pristine white or black sand beaches. The
community of Kalaupapa occupies a small portion of this land area, leaving open
tracts of grassland and trees. Now a National Historic Park, established in
1980, the park encompasses a total area of 10,726 acres, including approximately
8,726 acres of land and 2,000 acres of offshore/undersea area. Most of the land
within the park boundaries is managed by NPS through formal cooperative agreements
with various federal and state agencies, as well as private entities. The park
was established to preserve the memories of the victims as well as maintain
the settlements of Kalaupapa and Kalawao, a volcanic crater, rain forests and
the iconic Molokai Lighthouse.
Typically, all visitors entering the peninsula must have a permit, and only
visitors of the remaining residents are permitted to stay overnight (those 16
and younger are excluded -- a holdover from the days when patients' infants
and children were taken from them). The island of Molokai bills itself as "the
most Hawaiian island" -- indeed it has been subject to less development
than other islands, with a strong coterie of residents who prefer to keep their
island rural. Kalaupapa has seen none of the development typical elsewhere in
the islands, making it an unusually quiet and lovely (and many say spiritual)
place to experience.
Photo: Dick Schmidt
Our commitment is for each of us to work 30 hours on a variety of projects
during our stay, under the direction of Paul Hosten, Ph.D., Volunteer Coordinator
and Terrestrial Ecologist. These projects may include planting, gardening, weeding,
and nursery work, as well as maintaining patients' gardens and clearing historic
cemetary spaces. Other projects will be developed as we match participants'
skills/interests to the needs of the park.
Day 1: We will meet at the Kahului Maui Airport for our morning
over-water small craft flight to Kalaupapa. After landing at the inspiring Kalaupapa
peninsula, we will be met by our NPS host and transported to our park-provided
lodging for the week. Upon settling in, lunch this day will be the first meal
provided by the trip. After an orientation to the island and our project(s),
our service experience at the National Historic Park will begin.
Days 2-5: We will work hard each day, but also get into the
rhythm of "island time." Our shared meals provide nourishment as well
as conversation and community. NPS staff, who include local islanders, will
share stories and perspectives as they accompany us to daily work locations.
These include breathtaking sights that few others ever see. During non-work
hours, some will choose to snorkel or swim in the refreshing dock-side waters
-- close to our accommodations. Others will find their way to the unique tavern
to make the acquaintance of locals while taking refreshment, or wander the settlement
soaking up its history or observing a monk seal mother and pup. In the late
afternoon on day five, after lunch provided by the Sierra Club, we will bid
a fond “aloha” to new friends at Kalaupapa and return to Maui by
charter plane. Once at the Kahului airport, our trip comes to its conclusion
at approximately 6 p.m.
“I so hope that the Sierra Club continues to offer this service trip
to Kalaupapa. It is such a meaningful trip in a place where 8,000 people died
of Hansen's Disease, and their stories must not be forgotten. It is a place
where very step you take is on sacred ground, where volunteers are much appreciated
and sincerely thanked for their service. It is a hugely fulfilling experience,
and we are grateful for it!” - 2012 trip participant
Photo: Dick Schmidt
Kahului, Maui is accessible by most major air carriers. Due to our 7:45 a.m.
departure from Kahului to Kalaupapa, it is necessary that you travel to Maui
at least the day prior to the start of the trip. If you are interested in coming
early or staying late, the leaders will provide hotel information and suggestions
of sites to visit.
Accommodations and Food
In Kalaupapa we will stay in the former nurses' and doctors' homes. These facilities
are dormitory style, with shared bathrooms in each house. Our accommodations
are basic but comfortable, with lovely ocean breezes and shade trees. All of
our food for the work week must be transported down with us; the grocery store
in Kalaupapa is available only to residents. The leaders will shop in Maui for
groceries and package our food pre-trip to be flown down by charter plane with
us on the flight from Maui. The Hawaii subcommittee prides itself on the food
it serves; local products and recipes are incorporated into its menus. It is
extremely important that you discuss any dietary restrictions with the leader(s)
before you sign up. In addition to all grocery shopping being done in advance,
our cooking facilities are limited. Special dietary needs may not be able to
be accommodated. Participants will help with the preparation and clean-up of
our meals during our Kalaupapa stay.
This trip requires the ability to work in the outdoors in the tropical sun,
wind, and heat, while bending, stretching, lifting, pulling, and sweating. The
ability to perform physical tasks under these conditions is necessary for the
enjoyment of this outing. A normal exercise program is important. There are
no local medical facilities on the Kalaupapa peninsula. Trip participants must
be willing to fly on small aircraft with limited personal luggage.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Dick Schmidt
A detailed list will be provided to participants.
If you have time for a longer stay in Hawaii, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu
tells the story of the Hawaiian Islands admirably. The museum has been updated
in recent years; there are now daily activities and docent tours led by experienced
and knowledgeable Hawaiians. On a recent trip there, we learned about (and practiced)
traditional Hawaiian music, did some hula dancing, and toured the Hawaiian history
section with a kahuna (knowledgeable teacher).
- Kalaupapa National Historic Park: www.nps.gov/kala/
- Molokai Visitors Bureau: www.molokai-hawaii.com
- Daws, Gavin, Shoal in Time. Accurate history of Hawai’i.
- Brennert, Alan, Molokai. Historical fiction of Kalaupapa. (Brennert's
book, Honolulu, also describes this city's history well.)
- Bushnell, O.A., Molokai. Fictional story of Kalaupapa exiles.
- Tayman, John, The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of
Photo: Dick Schmidt
The Sierra Club Outings program is based on heightening awareness of conservation
and the environment throughout the world. We plan outings so members can experience
new places, people, and activities. Our concern is the global environment; we
encourage participants to take action to protect our shrinking world and its
inhabitants -- human and otherwise. On this trip, we will be made aware of the
uniqueness of Kalaupapa and the National Historic Park's participation in future
plans for the peninsula.
“The camaraderie of nine individuals tossed initially together for
a few minutes before climbing into a small aircraft for a flight to a storied
location, to do service at a site where history has witnessed a range of the
human condition from suffering to Sainthood. What a pleasure to work alongside
each other, leaders and participants, to help do a bit of good for this location,
the residents who still remain -- and those who have gone on -- and the National
Historical Park Service personnel who are now stewards of this peninsula called
Kalaupapa.” - 2012 trip participant
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Ruth Morton is a long-time member of Sierra Club, has enjoyed Hawaii the past 20 years, and has volunteered on service projects on Maui's Honokawaii Valley as well as at Kalaupapa. The beauty of Hawai'i- especially Kalaupapa - and the spirit of aloha continue to inspire her. After a career leading adult learning and corporate programs, she now focuses her energy on Sierra Club trips. Her other interests include birding, hiking, gardening, painting, and Ikebana.
'Mel' Watral has led and cooked on trips with the Hawaii Sub-Committee for nearly 17 years. Maui holds a special place in her heart -- she met her husband on a trip 11 years ago. She is an avid quilter and is determined to learn how to make a Hawaiian quilt!
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips