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|You’re spending the first few
days in Waikiki before touring the other islands, two to three
days each on Kaua‘i, Maui, and the Big Island and flying
home from Hilo. You’re having a great time, and then it
happens. You’ve checked out of your Waikiki hotel, and
you’re stopping off for lunch on your way to the airport,
and someone steals your wife’s purse. It had all your airline
tickets and hotel and car rental vouchers. And all your money
and traveler’s checks, except for a little cash in your
wallet. You’re devastated. What are you going to do?
Actually, all you have to do is remember you are in the land
of aloha. The meaning of aloha is not limited to hello or goodbye.
Aloha has many meanings, and among them is helping people in
trouble. The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i (VASH) provides
assistance to the visitor’s who need help because they
are victims of crime or accident or other traumatic or unfortunate
Some of the services provided by VASH include (but are not limited
to) pre-paid calling cards, meals, clothing, store gift certificates,
ground transportation, assistance with rental car discounts,
assistance with hotel accommodations, translation assistance
to help explain services that are available, and more.
The purpose of VASH, according to Jessica Lani Rich, its executive
director and president, is “Sharing the aloha of our island
home with visitors affected by crime, accidents, medical emergencies,
or other adversities. All of us at VASH,” Rich continued, “want
to send the visitor back to their respective homes in a positive
way and encourage them to come back to Hawai‘i again.”
According to Lisa Fallau, a VASH case manager (who is often assigned
to help victims of robberies like the one described above), added
that VASH “regularly receives numerous appreciations and
testimonies from grateful visitors.”
We can make a difference in our visitors’ lives whether
they come to Hawai‘i for business or vacation,” said
Rich. “Many of them let go of their inhibitions thinking
nothing terrible can ever happen while in paradise.” This
is unfortunately naïve, and can lead to trouble if the visitor
neglects basic safety precautions.
At VASH,” Rich continued, “we receive cases and reports
from police and referral agencies about such tragic incidents
24 hours and 7 days a week.” She cited examples from the
different types of typical cases, from car theft to the sudden
death of a family member. VASH volunteers assist most by helping
the distressed visitor change their perception about Hawai‘i
from a negative to a positive one,” Rich added.
The bottom line is when someone is victimized. The feeling of
loss is stressful and “the events that follow it are like
experiencing post-traumatic syndrome,” said Dr. Terrence
Wade, chair of the Board of Directors for VASH. The experience
of loss varies, he explained, but it almost always follows the
same pattern: Disbelief, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.
A trained VASH volunteer, with lots of patience and sensitivity
can “help the traumatized visitors by actively and closely
listening to their stories and what their needs are and how the
meet them,” said Wade. “It is important that you
show aloha by being compassionate, empathetic, and genuine.”
VASH conducts volunteer training sessions open to Hawai‘i
residents throughout the year. The recent training session, held
in July, added 21 newly trained volunteers. “It would be
nice if VASH would have around 100 active volunteers,” said
Rich, adding “people involved with VASH are always welcomed
as signs of spreading the aloha spirit further.”
Founded in 1995, as a service provided by the Rotary Club of
Honolulu, VASH grew in just two years to become an independent,
nonprofit volunteer organization. Started on O‘ahu, it
quickly spread to additional chapters on Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i,
and Maui. Rich is currently serving as the organization’s
president and O‘ahu’s executive director. She has
served with the organization for more than six years. Three case
managers—Fallau, Lindsay Leeworthy, and Petra Panfiglio—are
full-time staff employees.
For more information visit the VASH Web site, visitoralohasocietyofhawaii.org.
To become a certified volunteer with the Visitor Aloha Society
of Hawai‘i, call 926-8274 or e-mail email@example.com.
And remember the VASH motto: O Ke Aloha Ke Kuleana o Kahi Malihini. “Love
is the host in strange lands.”
|The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i
staff left to right: Mari McCraig, Petra Panfiglio, Dr. Terrance
Wade, and Jessica Lani Rich.
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