Now, those people are faced with difficult challenges.
Rebuilding Maui will be difficult, well beyond the general logistical challenges that construction in Hawaii presents given its geography and everything it takes to get supplies to the islands. And as more than two thousand acres burned in Lahaina, so much irreplaceable history is now ash.
The people of this sacred land, in many cases, passed down from generation to generation, now face an impossible decision. They could sell their land and build a life elsewhere, as developers buy up the prime, long-sought-after real estate and turn it into luxury resorts.
Or, they could see this through – a process that could take years and financially destroy them in the process. Tavai knows these people need instant relief. For many, the financial and emotional situation is a dire one.
“One of the things that really ticked me off is that hours after the fires ended, you had corporations and companies, people with a ton of money trying to buy up the land while these people are literally trying to process what is going on,” Tavai said.
“They lost everything. Understanding the history about Hawaii, how much they’ve been taken advantage of, it ticks me off every time I think about it because people are struggling. I pray people continue to help and dive into the community. I love the Red Cross but they have so much going on in the world to deal with. So, the foundation a few of the guys in the league made is RebuildMaui.org. We’re trying to make sure that we emphasize helping the community, helping individual families, sending money to them so they can pay their mortgage, and keep passing their home and their land down to the next generation. I’m praying that people around the world help.”
Tavai heard about the Rebuild Maui relief fund through Carolina Panthers linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, whom the Patriots drafted in 2016. He and other NFL players with ties to Hawaii were coming together to raise money, and Tavaii was all-in, adopting the cause for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative.
When he suits up against the Chargers this weekend, his custom cleats reflect that. They’ll feature “Maui” written in a pink heart, and the phrases “Keep Hawaiian land in Hawaiian hands,” and “Imua,” which means moving forward.
“I don’t want people to forget about Hawaii,” Tavai said.
“There’s so much tragedy in the world, so much is happening that’s out of our hands. My thing is just to not let Hawaii be forgotten.”
Learn more about Rebuilding Maui here.