Obama urges people to help his homestate of Hawaii after devastating wildfires

Former President Barack Obama, who grew up in Hawaii, is urging people to do everything they can to support efforts to rebuild Maui and Lahaina, which are being ravaged by wildfires.

In an Instagram video posted on Monday, Obama said he and former first lady Michelle Obama are heartbroken by the tragic wildfires that caused devastation in Maui, especially the historic city of Lahaina

Last week, Lahaina, which was once the capital of Hawaii, bore the brut wildfires, which became the deadliest in U.S. history. At least 99 people have died as of Monday and more than 1,000 people are still unaccounted for. Some people jumped into the water to escape the blaze as it tore through the town.

“As someone who grew up in Hawaii, as someone who has taken my family to enjoy the incredible beauty of that island and the hospitality of the people of Lahaina, we now find ourselves mourning the lives that are lost and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that have lost so much,” said Obama. “The thing about it is though, thoughts and prayers in a moment like this are not enough.”

“We have to step up and we have to help those families and we have to help Lahaina rebuild,” he said, adding that the Hawaii Red Cross and Malama Maui are mobilizing to help support the people in need.

The Red Cross partnered with local TV and radio stations in Hawaii to hold a telethon called Malama Maui on Aug. 14 to raise money for Hawaii Red Cross as it supports those affected by the fires. Malama is a Hawaiian word that means “to care for.” 

The Red Cross is continuing to accept donations for this cause online.

The former president urged people to do everything they can to support the Malama Maui effort. “If all of us, the Ohana [family], pull together, and do as much as we can to give back to an island and a town and people who have given us so much, I’m absolutely confident that Lahaina and Maui and those families are going to be able to rebuild.”

Barack Obama escorts Laura Kong during the graduation ceremony at Punahou School in May 1979 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

/ Getty Images

Obama was born in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961. His parents met there when his father, Barack Sr., and mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, were both students. He also lived in Indonesia for part of his childhood, but returned to Honolulu before fifth grade to live with his grandparents.

He attended Punahou School, a prep school in Honolulu, on a scholarship. He left Hawaii for college, and after building his career from community organizer to lawyer to senator and ultimately president, he continued to return to Hawaii every year with his family for the winter holidays. 

In 2008, he became the first U.S. president born in Hawaii. His grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died at age 86 on Nov. 3, 2008 – the day before he was elected president. He returned to Hawaii in December that year to scatter her ashes on the shoreline.

The Obama Hawaiian Africana Museum, which honors the former president’s birthplace and African American history in Hawaii, also urged people to donate to the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong fund, which is raising money for communities affected by the fires. 

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