Three weeks after the fire, when asked what people in Lāhainā, Hawai‘i, needed the most, Chris Mangca didn’t answer with a list of supplies. Instead, he said, “They need a break, love, some happiness, to see that people care about them.”

Mangca, a boat captain from Moloka‘i, an island 25 miles away, had been making daily boat trips to Lāhainā since footage of the wildfires began rolling in on social media on August 8th. After the intensity of the previous weeks, Mangca and a dozen others from the neighboring island returned for Labor Day weekend to relieve some of the resident volunteers who were cooking thousands of meals at a few of the community-led distribution hubs, and to help throw a local-style luau to bring people some normalcy and joy after what had happened.

The wildfires, which were started by downed power lines during high winds from Hurricane Dora, rapidly turned the historic town in West Maui to ash, destroying thousands of homes, businesses, and a beloved Native Hawaiian cultural center. According to officials, it also led to the deaths of nearly 100 loved ones, with several still missing more than a month later.

Government aid has trickled in slowly, so the community from Maui and the surrounding islands have risen up to help one another.

“For four days there was no food, no water, no supplies, no help,” says Mangca about the lack of government support, which was made more problematic after the National Guard set up checkpoints and blocked delivery of mutual aid going into Lāhainā—something officials later said was to keep people from entering hazardous areas.

Mangca, who initially went in to rescue people while the island was still in flames, then found himself one of several in a fleet of boats, Jet Skis, and catamarans from all over the islands that came in daily to drop off food and other supplies to the Kahana Boat Ramp in Napili—to get around the checkpoints and meet the community’s needs.

West Maui Council Member Tamara Paltin, who had also been on the ground helping her constituents, spoke to the resilience and relationships of the community at a county council meeting, quoting a friend who said, “The kupaʻāina, the people of this place, are not the passive recipients of aid; they are the navigators.”

Read the full article about community care after Maui wildfires by Libby Leonard at YES! Magazine.