HONOLULU (KHON2) — It took residents of Kalaupapa and members of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, a nonprofit organization, almost 20 years to raise funds to build the Kalaupapa Memorial to honor their loved ones.

According to Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, years ago, their family members were taken by the government’s policies and isolated because they were diagnosed with leprosy, aka Hansen’s Disease.

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Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa said the first case of leprosy was identified in 1873 by Dr. Gerhard Hansen of Norway. The treatment that led to the cure of leprosy — sulfone drug called promin — was discovered in 1941 at the National Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana.

The residents of Molokai are one step closer to seeing their vision come to life as the Senate passed the final reading of the memorial bill SB3338 with 25 ayes on Thursday, May 5 — which was the last day of the Hawaii State Legislative session. The state will appropriate $5 million to the nonprofit to build their memorial.

A vision that was started by the hearts of the Molokai residents has them excited about what’s to come next.

“It’s an exciting day knowing that the names of the 8,000 people that were taken from their families and sent to Kalaupapa because they were diagnosed with the disease will be forever remembered with dignity and respect.”

VALERIE MONSON OF KA ‘OHANA O KALAUPAPA

Monson said it has been a long journey. In 2009, the U.S. Congress authorized the Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa to establish the memorial by passing legislation that was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama.

The next step for the nonprofit is to create a committee to discuss “how they will build the memorial and fundraising measures for a $5 million endowment to maintain it,” according to Monson.

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“I believe the endowment is just as important. Building the memorial is important and maintaining it for years to come is just as important,” said Monson.