Local families open up hearts, homes to Japanese victims - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Local families open up hearts, homes to Japanese victims

Governor Abercrombie addresses Japanese visitors affected by tsunami and their local, host families. Governor Abercrombie addresses Japanese visitors affected by tsunami and their local, host families.
Sixty-seven Japanese visitors come to Hawaii to stay with local families. Sixty-seven Japanese visitors come to Hawaii to stay with local families.
Maya Maeda Maya Maeda
Marian Moriguchi Marian Moriguchi
Kody Maeda Kody Maeda

By Teri Okita

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii residents aren't just opening up their wallets to victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami. Now, they're also opening up their homes.

Dozens of Japanese survivors flew to the island on Monday to stay with host families on Oahu and Maui for up to three months.

Maya Maeda and her four-year-old son, Kody, plan to spend the next three months relaxing and taking a break from all the troubles back home in Fukushima, Japan.

"We evacuated the city because of the radiation, because my son is too small," Maeda said. "I was afraid of the radiation effects on my son."

Their home is still damaged, they have no car and they've been living with an aunt since the disaster in March.

When Maeda heard about "The Aloha Initiative," she jumped. The program brings disaster victims to Hawaii for a little rest and relaxation.

"I think it will be good for my son to be able to go outside and play -- which we cannot do in Fukushima city," Maeda said.

Dozens of survivors landed in Hawaii to meet their host families.

Cindy Melim's family is taking in Kaori Kozawa and her two children. Apparently, pillow fights need no translation. Both mothers hope their kids will have fun and learn life lessons.

"Just really opening up their hearts more and being more generous with themselves and their toys and their time," Melim said.

"Because of the tsunami, they're afraid of water. And so, what she wants to do," Kozawa said. "Before, they used to love going to the beach, but now they're kind of afraid of it. So, she wants them to get used to the fact of going back into the waves."

"The Aloha Initiative," which is funded through private donations, received 200 applications. According to organizers, they used specific criteria to whittle down the list.

"Most in need and also, those who lost their homes," Aloha Initiative Japan Liaison Marian Moriguchi said.

For all of these survivors, their worries are behind them... at least for a while.

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