Aloha from Maui,

The highlight of our trip this year, was our day trip to the Island of Molokai and the Kalaupapa Settlement.  This is the place where people affected with Hansen's disease were banished in the late 1800's.  The Kalaupapa peninsula is located at the northern part of the Island of Molokai.  It measures approximately 3 miles at it's base and 3 miles north to south.  It is seperated from the rest of the island by a wall of cliffs 1,500 to 2,000 feet high.  On the remaining boundary by a relentless ocean- the peninsula was made for exile.  The patients were allowed on the Kalawao side only, where it is cold and windswept.  The sun sets behind the tall cliffs at three in the afternoon. 

The reason we wanted to visit the island was because of the work done by Father Damian (now Saint Damian).  When he came in 1873 the patients that lived there had no law, no doctors and no hope.  Father Damian, through his hard work, built houses for the people, built a church, organized the population so that they could care for themselves and petitioned the bishops for funding for food, clothing and building supplies. In 1884 Father Damian himself contracted the disease.  He was now one of his people.  He continued to work for the betterment of his people until his death on April 15, 1889 at the age of 49.  Father Damian was decalred a Saint in October 2009.

The trip to visit the peninsula was not easy to arrange.  The peninsula is now a National Park, but because some of the patients still live there travel in the settlement is restricted to insure their privacy.  Today, residents (former Hansen's disease patients, Hawaii Department of Health and National Park Service employees) are all that are left.  Over 8,000 patients were exiled there in the island's history and over 7,000 are buried there.

You can only visit if you make an arrangement with a charter flight.  The former mule train that traveled from topside down the 1,200 foot cliff's is closed for repairs.  When we landed at the small landing strip, we felt in awe of the peaceful scenery and thought of all the pain and suffering that went on there in this beautiful place.  The road that led to the settlement was lined with cemeteries.  Our tour guide told us that these were the overflow cemeteries.  We toured the town of Kalaupapa where the people live now and then went the short 3 miles to the Kalawao side where Father Damian's church of St. Philomena and his grave are.  This is being restored by the park service beautifully.  We were able to enter the church and pray at Saint Damian's grace.  Just walking the same ground that he did was such a special and awesome feeling.  You can see a slide show of our trip by clicking here.

For more information on Kalaupapa, visit the National Park's website.

For more information on Saint Damian, click here.

Hope you enjoy!

Bill and Pat

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