The de Souzas: 'Don't think she is over here destroying. She is - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

The de Souzas: 'Don't think she is over here destroying. She is just cleaning up'

"Auntie Willie" says she's optimistic because there's no use in being any other way. (Image: Hawaii News Now) "Auntie Willie" says she's optimistic because there's no use in being any other way. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Auntie Linda and her wife fled to a shelter after volcanic emissions made it tough for them to breathe. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Auntie Linda and her wife fled to a shelter after volcanic emissions made it tough for them to breathe. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

For more than a month, hundreds of lava evacuees have been living at the Pahoa emergency shelter.

It's anything but ideal: Many are sleeping in tents on the grounds. There have been fights, drug use, even a confirmed suicide.

But you wouldn't get a sense for the hardship of living out of a suitcase from the de Souzas. 

Instead, you'd get something surprising, considering just how much they've been through: Hope.

They're known as Auntie Willie and Auntie Linda — Wilhemina Kamalamalama de Souza and her wife, Linda, both 65 — and they evacuated from their home in lower Puna after volcanic emissions were making it difficult for them to breathe.

They grabbed what they could, packed up their two parrots, and headed for the shelter.

Before they left, though, Auntie Willie made sure to take something she'd work toward for decades: Her graduation gown.

"They are both in wheelchairs and to look at them they are very unassuming," said Red Cross volunteer Amy Laurel Hegy. 

"Auntie Willie, I watched her get dressed the first Saturday in her cap and gown and after 35 years of plugging away at her degree she became the very first family in her family to graduate."

Actually, she graduated with three degrees from the University of Hawaii at Hilo — bachelor's degrees in philosophy, women's studies and fine arts.

"Even if it took me long time, I did it," said de Souza, laughing. "It was an honor, then I went to the back and I went to sleep." 

Shortly after that high moment, though, a low: De Souza was taken to the hospital after falling ill. That's when shelter staff and other evacuees learned she's also battling cancer.

"She is very sick," Linda de Souza said.

But when she got well enough to be discharged, Auntie Willie wouldn't hear of moving elsewhere: She wanted to return to the shelter. She wanted to return to her newfound extended family.

"I'm honored that the shelter has become that for her, like we're doing something right if they are feeling that way," Hegy said.

And, she added, the feeling is mutual.

"I mean they have really become a central force of family in this shelter," Hegy said. "I would have to say that the most profound impact has been these two ladies."

"Auntie Willie" says she's optimistic — upbeat — because there's no use in being any other way.

The eruptions, she says, can't be stopped so there's no use in dwelling about what could have been.

"Make them understand that is our nature goddess," he said. "Don't think she is over here destroying. She is not. She is just cleaning up."

This profile is part of our digital series, "Pele's Path: People of Puna." 

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

  • Hawaii News Now headlinesNewsMore>>

  • High Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

    High Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

    Thursday, June 21 2018 10:32 AM EDT2018-06-21 14:32:03 GMT
    Friday, June 22 2018 8:48 PM EDT2018-06-23 00:48:48 GMT
    (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko, File). FILE - This April 23, 2018, file photo shows the Supreme Court in Washington.  The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were lo...(AP Photo/Jessica Gresko, File). FILE - This April 23, 2018, file photo shows the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were lo...

    The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.

    More >>

    The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.

    More >>
  • The Latest: HHS says families won't be immediately reunited

    The Latest: HHS says families won't be immediately reunited

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 12:01 PM EDT2018-06-20 16:01:56 GMT
    Friday, June 22 2018 8:46 PM EDT2018-06-23 00:46:45 GMT
    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of PMQs at parliament in London. The British government is facing anoth...(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of PMQs at parliament in London. The British government is facing anoth...
    British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump's visit to Britain next month.More >>
    British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump's visit to Britain next month.More >>
  • In reversal, Trump orders halt to his family separation rule

    In reversal, Trump orders halt to his family separation rule

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 11:21 AM EDT2018-06-20 15:21:21 GMT
    Friday, June 22 2018 8:46 PM EDT2018-06-23 00:46:10 GMT
    A boy stares out of a heavily tinted bus window leaving a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility Tuesday in McAllen, TX. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)A boy stares out of a heavily tinted bus window leaving a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility Tuesday in McAllen, TX. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    Trump signs executive order to keep families together at border, says 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue.

    More >>

    Trump signs executive order to keep families together at border, says 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly