Suzanne Announces the Kibou for Maui Project

When I rejoined USJC in May 2020 as the organization reeled from losing our founder, Irene, and tried to find its footing amidst the global pandemic, I reflected on what I considered to be USJC’s “North Star” to guide us through the uncertainty. From its origins, USJC has been at its  best when helping in difficult times; this was especially true in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake with the creation of the TOMODACHI Initiative. 

USJC’s approach has consistently been:

  1. find the good even when times are dark but focusing on people-to-people connections; 
  2. channel those ties to be in service of both recovery and resilience and the strengthening of the broader U.S.-Japan relationship; 
  3. catalyze the partnerships among sectors (private, public, civil society, grassroots) to elevate people-to-people engagement in service of a higher mission; and 
  4. create and implement innovative, inclusive programs that encourage diverse leaders to commit to the future of the U.S.-Japan relationship. 

When tragedy struck last summer as wildfires raged through Maui, it was clear that Hawaii was the beating heart of USJC. USJC’s members hold many leadership roles within the local economy and community, and so many of our members, sponsors and supporters in Japan and the Mainland feel a deep connection to Hawaii. We immediately asked ourselves how we can follow our North Star in service of Maui’s recovery. Today’s official launch of the Kibou for Maui Project is the realization of that commitment to be of service to communities that matter to us.

The Kibou for Maui Project is made possible by the incredible generosity and vision of the Government of Japan. Japan offered massive support in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, including $2 million from the Japanese Government to the Maui Strong Fund, gifts from many friendship associations and an outpouring of gifts from individual citizens. Now, months later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has funded the Kibou for Maui Project to bring hope to the people of Maui. At its heart is a “reverse TOMODACHI” program that you will hear more about in coming weeks. It will make your heart soar to hear how young professionals who were themselves kids in 2011 and found refuge from their disaster-torn Tohoku communities by visiting Hawaii will soon welcome Maui students to their communities. Further, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognizes that Japanese, especially those in the Tohoku community, have a wealth of hard-earned experience with long-term disaster recovery, resilience and rebuilding that can be of value to Maui’s community leaders in the coming months and years. USJC is honored to be entrusted to facilitate the Kibou for Maui Project, drawing on the contributions and passion of our members. You’ll hear more about these amazing USJC members in our newsletters over the coming weeks.