HONOLULU (KHON2) — The family of a humanitarian aid worker who is currently stuck in Gaza is pleading for the public to put pressure on congressional leaders to get her out.
Ramona Okumura was born and raised in Honolulu, but works with the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) to help make prosthetic arms and legs for children.
Though she was born on Oahu, Ramona Okumura worked in the rehabilitation medicine department at the University of Washington for 27 years until she retired. Her nieces said she has dedicated her time since 2018 to the PCRF to make functional limbs for amputee children in the war-torn region of Gaza.
“She’s been able to allow children that are missing the bottom half of their leg because of wartime violence now be able to kind of play and walk around,” said Erika Okumura, Ramona’s niece.
Ramona has been trapped in Gaza since Hamas launched its attack on Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning to evacuate turned up the pressure during the morning of Friday, Oct. 13.
“She was awoken, I think at 2 a.m. and moved to a location about five miles from the border,” said Akemi Hiatt, another of Ramona’s nieces,” so she is there now in a U.N. building with a lot of other migrants and other American aid workers and Palestinians as well.”
Ramona’s family said those last five miles to the Egyptian border make Hawaii’s traffic look easy since over a million Palestinians have been urged to flee.
“Can you imagine how many cars are there now? Can you imagine how many people are trying to get out? It’s like five minutes, five miles, well for us is, is for them hours,” Erika said.
“Mixed feelings of like helplessness and what can we do because we’re not there and there would be big stretches of time where we didn’t hear any update,” Hiatt said.
The Okumura family has been pressuring senators and garnering community support to call for a ceasefire and open up a humanitarian aid corridor.
“If you can share that message on social media, call the senators, call anybody you know. It’s really just humanitarian aid, bring auntie Ramona home, because if she can get out, then they can get in,” Erika said. “And that’s, they’re really there to protect the innocent children, you know, they’re there for the keiki.”
The Okumura family has set up a GoFundMe to send donations directly to the PCRF, which will go toward the cost of evacuation. Click here for more information.