Our Islands, Our Future
Aloha Quilts For Wildfire Survivors

Aloha Quilts For Wildfire Survivors

The Maui Quilt Shop on Central Avenue in Wailuku is packed full of fabrics, quilt patterns, and quilt kits with a contemporary Hawaiian style, besides patterns and kits for basic quilting. In this distinctive Maui store, a haven for any quilter and fabric lover, a remarkable humanitarian gesture occurred. Owner Marilyn Sameshima shared, “I am astounded by the generous and beautiful quilt donations that came to the Maui Quilt Shop’s Aloha Quilt Donation Drive for those affected by the Lahaina and Upcountry fires. The Maui Quilt Shop received approximately 5,650 quilts from Hawaii and around the world! To date we have distributed over 5,000. The fire recipients are very appreciative and touched by the quilts. They will always hold this expression of caring dear to their hearts. My incredible staff and volunteers assisted in the effort and their continued support and endless hours of work contributed to the success of the mission.”

In addition to the quilts, people donated blankets, pillowcases, and other items made by quilters and guilds from across the country, Canada and worldwide, to distribute to survivors in Lahaina and Kula. “Survivors continue to visit us to pick up these treasures given to them by generous people in their time of need,” Sameshima noted. “We send our thanks to those who kept Maui in mind. We hope the entire community will continue to remember our survivors and donate to other recognized groups such as the Maui Food Bank, Maui Strong Fund, and Maui United Way.”

Sameshima knows how much time, effort, expense and tender loving care goes into making quilts. She continues to be awed by the worldwide response of donations. “These handmade quilts were made with loving hands,” she added. “The donated quilts have been, and continue to be, appreciated by the survivors of this horrible fire. They have also been received by first responders, firefighters, and their families. Many of them also lost their homes and loved ones. Using a grass-roots network to get the word out that quilts are available, we were able to make sure they found caring homes.”

Mahalo to all who contributed to our Aloha Quilts Donation Drive. Thank you for caring about Maui! Marilyn Sameshima, Owner, Maui Quilt Shop

Horses Heal Hearts

Horses Heal Hearts

The Spirit Horse Ranch (TSHR) Inc., a 501(c)(3) Maui nonprofit, helps adolescent and other survivors of abuse and trauma through the healing energy of equine-assisted learning, organic gardening, creative expression, and the healing energy of the Haleakala setting. Operated by the Deponte family, TSHR began in 2021 on Triple L Ranch. It is one of the few remaining Paniolo cattle ranches on Maui with 132 acres of lush land on the mountain slopes. The program is fueled by a certified and dedicated team, with facilities and curriculum to ensure a safe environment. It also serves as a sanctuary for the retired Triple L Ranch horses to love and be loved. 

“A growing body of evidence suggests that the unique human-horse connection improves the physical and mental health of both species,” said Paige Deponte, TSHR Founder and Executive Director. “As the horse and person bond, a healthy connection via self-awareness grows, resulting in emotional healing. Our programs are centered on the concept that by building a working relationship with a horse, any participant can develop important skills that can translate to all aspects of their daily lives.”

The TSHR team and Trauma Informed Care Facility are available to survivors of abuse, grief and trauma in the Maui community. The work fosters healing, resilience and emotional well-being to all those who have endured painful experiences, including the hardship from the Maui wildfires. The ranch has extended the scope of their program to encompass all age groups, free of charge, with a special day dedicated to first responders and those caring for the welfare of others. Through their different initiatives, TSHR addresses distress in a holistic manner, integrating both emotional and physiological aspects of healing.

“To date, we have provided 533 sessions to the community since the wildfires, and will continue to be here for anyone who needs help,” Deponte added. “We have seen the unique reciprocal bond between the two species continue to thrive, grow and surprise. To help rebuild our community’s resilience, we invite our Maui ‘ohana to come and learn effective coping tools here at our ranch.” For more info email: or call 808-280-7070.

TSHR Equine Therapy Program for children 11-17 is open to all agencies and schools, beginning January 2024. Paige DePonte Founder & Executive Director The Spirit Horse Ranch

Kung Hee Fat Choy & Happy New Year!

Kung Hee Fat Choy & Happy New Year!

Dr. Busaba Yip, cultural director and docent of the Wo Hing Museum, Society Hall and Cookhouse is slowly recovering from the August 8th wildfires. Losing everything—home, business, personal possessions—she could only weep the first few days. Yet, while the Lahaina fire destroyed all the Wo Hing buildings, it did not destroy Yip’s commitment to keep hope alive, to rebuild and restore.

In years past, Chinese New Year (CNY) was celebrated at Wo Hing with lion dances, Chinese artifacts and music, tea celebrations, and numerous fun activities. “While grieving Lahaina’s losses, we can still celebrate new beginnings at the various CNY events on Maui,” said Yip. “February 10th begins the year of the Wood Dragon. That day we will have a CNY offering and display table with Chinese artifacts at the Upcountry Farmers Market from 8am-11am. Plus, Kwock Hing Temple in Kula will have a CNY celebration February 25th at 11am.” 

The date for CNY is determined by the lunar calendar. Each year, the date falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The ancient Chinese calendar is based on the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac. This tradition recounts 12 mythical animals descending from heaven to usher in spring and a new harvest, with each year assigned to one of the twelve animals. Each year, CNY is also associated with one of the five elements: earth, wood, fire, metal, and water. In 2024, wood and dragon take center stage, making it the Year of the Wood Dragon. The dragon, a mythical and powerful animal, brings hope for growth, and renewal.

Yip added, “Inspiring imagination and leadership, the Year of the Wood Dragon is a time to celebrate with family, friends, fireworks, and lanterns. A tray of sweetmeats called Chuen-hop (togetherness) is also shared. It is a time to reflect on our lives over the past year, to plan for the future, and to try to recreate what Wo Hing used to be. Right now, though, my wish for the community is to be safe, and to have a healthy and happy New Year as we rebuild our West Side and island community together.”

The most common greetings heard are Kung Hee Fat Choy, May Wealth and Prosperity Be Yours, and Sen Nien Fai Lok, Happy New Year! Dr. Busaba Yip Cultural Director & Docent Wo Hing Museum, Society Hall and Cookhouse

STEMworks AI Camps

STEMworks AI Camps

Recently, through Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) STEMworks™ program, students from Lokelani Intermediate, Maui Waena, Iao Intermediate, and Baldwin High School had a unique opportunity to delve into the world of artificial intelligence (AI). A total of 160 students from these Maui schools participated in a hands-on, in-person AI training experience. The mission of STEMworks is to provide students and teachers with resources, inspiration, and tools that empower them to improve their community and the world.

“The training was part of the STEMworks AI camps, designed to nurture creativity and develop AI skills among young leaders,” said Lalaine Passion, STEMworks Program Specialist. “These camps offer students a chance to bring their own books, stories, comics, and business ideas to life using the power of AI. Students are encouraged to experiment, create, and think critically about the role of AI in various fields.” 

Born and raised on Maui, Gabriel Yanagihara, an experienced educator with a background in computer science, creative media and video game design, helped the students understand the fascinating possibilities of AI. “Our journey in blending AI with creative writing has been nothing short of magical,” Yanagihara explained. “As an educator, it’s thrilling to see how technologies like ChatGPT can enhance learning, ignite imagination, and bring student creations to life in the most enchanting ways. In a fun and educational setting, we’re equipping students with the skills and confidence to navigate the digital world. In our class every student is a storyteller, every story a gateway to new worlds, and every AI-generated illustration a bridge between imagination and reality.”

Yanagihara’s guidance, expertise and contributions were instrumental in making the AI camp a success. His initiative marks a significant step in introducing young minds to the possibilities of AI and its role in shaping the future. “These events are a perfect introduction for beginners who want to explore the power of AI in a supportive environment,” he added, “Students can discover how AI tools can enhance their problem-solving skills and revolutionize the way they approach design challenges. In a world where education constantly evolves with technology, it’s important to find innovative ways to nurture creativity.”

Through AI-powered illustration tools, my students have embarked on a journey transforming imaginative narratives into vivid and tangible experiences. Gabriel Yanagihara, STEM educator

Julia Allisson’s Wonderland

Julia Allisson’s Wonderland

Julia Allisson Cost is from a family of well-known artists. Her father, Curtis Wilson Cost, is one of the most acclaimed artists on Maui and her mom, Jill, is a multi-talented sewist, fabric and fashion designer and business manager. Julia, with a double BA in Studio Art and Dance from Scripps College and an MFA in Dance from the University of California, Irvine, is a painter, textile designer, sewist, author, illustrator, and dancer. Inspired by her upcountry surroundings, she captures the world on canvas through painting and transforms her paintings into textile designs. Those designs have become the raw material for her clients who sew artistically.

“I’m just an island kid, born, raised and based on Maui,” Julia said. “My dad is a realistic landscape painter and has the longest running one-man gallery in the state of Hawaii, the Curtis Wilson Cost Gallery. He’s been archiving rural Hawaii as it looked before modern development through his oil paintings since 1973. My mom had her own one-woman batik and sewing business called Kulia Batiks. The love my parents showed me through the world of art flows into my relationships with my clients. That people love my fabrics enough to sew incredible garments with them is quite an honor.”

Most recently, Julia released her first picture book, The Girl And The Boat, which tells a story of friendship through 30 richly detailed oil paintings that invite you to explore countless details and interpret the story for yourself. It is about a little girl who lives high on a mountain overlooking the sea. One day, she finds a toy boat in a field of wildflowers and carries it home, washes it, sews it a new sail, and then goes on a series of adventures with it.

Julia added, “I painted every page of this book with the goal that each scene would stand alone as a work of art. I created the props and sewed the quilts and costumes so that I could paint everything from life and achieve a level of rich detail and realism. The story ignites imagination while beckoning to explore the paintings again and again.” For more info visit:

Living in so much beauty upcountry inspires my work. Julia Allisson Cost, Artist, Author, Dancer