Our Islands, Our Future

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Maui and the Kwock Hing Society in Kula, the annual effort to re-establish the fragrant sandalwood trees in Kula has become an earnest community project for this team. Their tree-planting project was a huge success this year. During the early 1800s, the royal sandalwood ‘ilahi’ became a valuable trade commodity and was quickly over-harvested. In later years, the trade in sandalwood had collapsed and the forests were exhausted. Thanks to conservation efforts over time, the remarkable sandalwood trees have made a comeback. 

“It is important to honor our ancestors by gathering the community to re-plant the sandalwood, teach its history, and educate the younger generation about its importance,” said Sarah Shim, president of the Kwock Hing Society and board member of the Maui Chinese Club. “One of our goals at Kwock Hing is to restore Sandalwood Mountain. We are thankful that the Rotary Club of Maui offered to help. They are the primary people that started this project with us. They have been a joy to us and also helped us make needed repairs in our very old building. Built in 1907 in Keokea, the Kwock Hing Temple has been a place for traditional celebrations and community educational programs. The building was placed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places in 1982, and the National Register of Historic Places later that year.”

Rev. Heather Mueller, president of the Rotary Club of Maui, noted, “We had approximately 60 people helping to plant trees at the temple cemetery and in the surrounding Kula area. Unjust demands in the 1800s caused so much hardship that the Hawaiian sandalwood trade had come to a halt. Therefore, we feel the need to restore our mountain again with sandalwood trees. Besides beautifying our island, trees absorb carbon and release oxygen, reducing the effects of climate change. They also bind the soil, which will help if we have extreme upcountry weather events. To see so many volunteers come out to plant, and be part of something to help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, is wonderful!”

Our purpose is to create and maintain a balanced environment, preserving the natural wealth of our ‘āina. Rev. Heather Mueller, President, Rotary Club of Maui