During the week of August 7, 2017, representatives from San Diego-based charity Care House visited with and presented care packages to clients at Maui nonprofits Aloha House and Malama Family Recovery Center. Care House helps under-privileged youth in San Diego, particularly those who are homeless, through mentoring, tutoring, scholarships and various outreach programs. The visit was organized by Care House’s President, Leah Blankenship, and she was joined by a program assistant as well as six teens and young adults who had been helped by the organization.
None of the youth had ever been to Maui before, and all of them had been homeless at one point in their lives. Aloha House and Malama work together to provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment services to thousands of individuals and families in Maui County each year.
Although Care House’s focus is underserved youth, the group wanted to do a project that reached outside their scope of service when traveling to Maui. Dr. Sean O’Hara, a psychologist in San Diego whose parents have a home on Maui and who has lived on the island himself, suggested Aloha House to Leah. During both visits, Leah shared her personal story in regards to the impact drugs and alcohol have made on her own family. “I wanted to remind clients that they can overcome the challenges they are facing and that they must never give up,” said Leah. “I want them to know that brokenness can lead to healing with a potential outcome that will be amazing! Care House will forever be connected with Aloha House and Malama as extended family because of these visits.”
During both visits, one Care House youth, Vincent, also shared his story of going from being homeless and living in a car to graduating high school and taking classes at a Junior College. He then revealed the exciting news that he had recently been accepted to Arizona State University and was moving into his dorm shortly after returning from this trip. He plans to study Music Therapy. Vincent brought his ukulele with him to Maui and performed for clients during both visits. At Malama, everyone, including staff, joined together in an impromptu group song after Vincent lent his ukulele to one of the ladies who knew how to play.
“As an addict in a treatment center, it is easy to feel disconnected from the outside world…we may even feel a little forgotten,” said one Aloha House client after the visit. “Those sentiments were profoundly diminished by an unexpected blessing: a visit from Care House from San Diego. A group of formerly homeless individuals came bearing care packages, non-judgemental smiles, a touching piece of music and most importantly, a message of hope, inspiration and encouragement. Their stories of perseverance and obstacles overcome were of course uplifting, but the real gift? They called us HEROES! Us. A room full of addicts who often have a hard time liking what we see in the mirror, we were being seen as pillars of strength. It was a visit beyond charitable, beyond kind and beyond uplifting. The Care House visit reminded us that we addicts here at Aloha House in Maui are capable heroes.”