HAIKU (KHON2) — Bringing a child into the world is a monumental task, and some families in West Maui and Kula are facing the additional challenge of losing everything.
Pacific Birth Collective, a Maui-based non-profit originally focused on postpartum and birth care, quickly pivoted to become a comprehensive resource for victims of the devastating fires that occurred on Aug. 8th.
“We had to pivot really quickly,” said Sonya Niess, Pacific Birth Collective Board President.
Donations poured in first, followed by a surge of volunteers and an array of services. One of their key tools in organizing their efforts was simple but effective: spreadsheets. “We very quickly realized we needed shelves. Then we realized we needed a process,” Niess added.
The non-profit takes orders from families in need and delivers essential items ranging from diapers, baby carriers, breast milk, and formula to food and everything in between. They also offer a quiet place for parents to relax and even temporary housing solutions.
“We’ve helped several families who were giving birth the day after the fires with other small children who were in the shelter. We made sure that they got into a house so they weren’t taking a baby home from the hospital into the shelter,” Niess explained.
With around 30 volunteers working in shifts daily, the organization has built a strong community network. “People are coming before work or while their kid is at school or after work, so we really have this big ohana of everybody to support this process,” said Niess.
The collective also extends its services to those affected by the decline in tourism, a vital part of Maui’s economy. Niess recalled an instance where a mother came in with her toddler, feeling guilty for needing diapers.
“She said, ‘My house didn’t burn down, but my husband and I both lost our jobs,'” Niess shared. Volunteers rallied to meet her needs and offered emotional support. “The very next day she came back and volunteered her time,” Niess said.
Volunteer Meeya Dugied, who flew home to be with family, found solace in aiding others. “It’s the only thing that helps; it’s the only thing that I can do, because when I’m anywhere else, this is what I’m thinking of,” Dugied said.
For Dugied, the collective’s efforts epitomize the spirit of Maui. “It’s not surprising this is how people are here, but at the same time it’s so beautiful, and it makes me so proud to be a part of this community,” she added.