Incarcerated mothers get a day with their kids at WCCC holiday p - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Incarcerated mothers get a day with their kids at WCCC holiday party

KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The holidays are a time for families to come together. But in some places, it can be a lot more difficult. And that's why Saturday was such a special day at the Women's Community Correctional Center.

WCCC inmate Malia Mahaulu was reunited with her son and baby daughter from the Big Island. This is family time that is very rare, especially time with the nine month-old girl.

"I came in when I was seven months pregnant with my baby, so I gave birth in here," said Mahaulu. "And I'm hopefully getting out by February."

The children were reunited with their mothers by the Star Light, Star Bright program from the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu's prison ministry, with the thought that children whose mothers are incarcerated shouldn't feel forgotten during the holidays.

It also brings happiness to the mothers, like Nata Manaois, whose two daughters were flown in from Maui. She only gets to see them twice a year.

"It makes things happier. It makes easier for me, being here," said Manaois, as her eight- and six-year-old girls sat beside her playing with coloring books.

The gathering used to be only for inmates with children on Oahu. But two years ago, the prison ministry started transporting children and their caregivers from the neighbor islands.

"The families can't believe that the church and the community, really, are providing funding for the air fare to bring them here," said Paulette Vernay, the coordinator for the Star Light, Star Bright program. "Some of them are so humbled, they cry."

This year, it cost $19,000 to fly 59 children and 34 caregivers to Oahu. So far, the group has raised only $10,000, and is looking for more donations to cover the cost.

Even though they are inmates, WCCC Acting Warden Eric Tanaka said they are still mothers and are important to their families.

"Something like this, an occasional for them to reunite, rejoice, mend, ho`oponopono if you will, is something special for them," he said. "It gives them a great opportunity."

"It's the best feeling you can get to see them," said Mahaulu. 

"I'm very happy."

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