‘Help Maui Rise’ wants to get donations directly to wildfire survivors. Here’s how you can help

Created by Kenna Reed, Gabrielle Pascual and Samantha Feyen, the "Help Maui Rise" list helps donors give cash directly to victims, rather than a large nonprofit
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 3:46 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 5:26 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Billions of dollars in disaster relief and donations are available for Maui victims, but some families can’t access it.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Maui wildfire survivors are turning to social media to raise money for their own for recovery, with hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into GoFundMe campaigns. The problem: Not all donations are equal.

That’s why three women are trying to level the field.

What started off as Instagram posts of displaced Maui families asking for donations has evolved into a Google spreadsheet of more than 1,400 verified GoFundMe and Venmo accounts.

Created by Kenna Reed, Gabrielle Pascual and Samantha Feyen, the “Help Maui Rise” list helps donors give cash directly to victims, rather than a large nonprofit or general fund — and promotes more equitable donation distribution.

“It was born out of feeling helpless an island away,” Pascual said.

“We were talking to a lot of families that needed money immediately, and they weren’t getting it and a lot of them one month in have still not received that aid,” Reed said.

“Some of them don’t have Social Security numbers. Some of them don’t have bank accounts. Some of the people we were sitting down with them for an hour just trying to find a way to get them to be set up with a fundraiser and to qualify for aid given their situations.”

Survivors can submit their information online to be included in the spreadsheet.

Help Maui Rise highlights some of the heartbreaking stories on social media.

Reed says 90% of submissions are “obviously real,” and GoFundMe helps vet the rest and address any technical issues.

“If we have a family that we’re like, hey, this feels suspicious to us. We don’t want to include this on the list within like an hour or two, they’re emailing us back saying like, ‘Yes, don’t share this one,’” she said.

The spreadsheet also has tabs to let donors see who needs the most help.

“We have all of the GoFundMe links sorted from lowest donation to highest and our hopes, in giving people this option was to basically try to create a space for more equitable donation distribution,” Reed said,

Help Maui Rise also has a “One Click Donation” option for donors to have their tax-deductible donation evenly distributed to everyone on the list or to those with the lowest balances.

GoFundMe keeps 2.9% and $0.30 from every donation to cover processing fees.

Beneficiaries can withdraw money at anytime, and fundraisers don’t expire.

Families say GoFundMe donations are giving them a sort of line of credit for essentials -- a lifeline without a middle man or red tape.

“It’ll bring some comfort and some normalcy back, we’re not gonna be the same, but again, we cannot look back,” said Chester and Jachia Valencia, who lost their home in the Lahaina fire.

“They’re going through trauma, we just want to find a way to lessen all of that pain for them,” Pascual said.

For more information, contact info@helpmauirise.org or visit helpmauirise.org.

For a list of verified GoFundMe fundraisers for Maui wildfire survivors, click here.

For a list of verified Venmo accounts and other donation sites, click here.