Disasters can make children more vulnerable to exploitation. A Hawaii nonprofit’s call as Maui recovers

Hoola Na Pua says disasters can lead to an increase in trafficking of youth in affected communities and make at-risk children more vulnerable.
Published: Sep. 24, 2023 at 5:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A local nonprofit dedicated to preventing sex trafficking and child exploitation urges the Maui community to stay vigilant as recovery efforts continue.

Dr. Jamee Mahealani Miller, executive director of Hoola Na Pua. said historically, disasters lead to an increase in trafficking of youth in affected communities and make at-risk children more vulnerable.

According to Hoola Na Pua’s annual report, the national age for trafficking is 14 years of age, while in Hawaii, the average is 11 years old. The average age for first time victims is 11 years old. Native Hawaiians make up 64% of those exploited.

Miller wants parents and guardians to be aware of the warning signs for children experiencing trauma especially for families impacted by the Maui wildfires.

“When families are displaced or separated, they’re mainly accounting to their children’s basic needs. Children really need adults in their lives right now and someone who they can count on. They might not be able to come out with their trauma right away,” Miller said.

The nonprofit is holding its 8th annual Pearl Gala on September 30 at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu in Ko Olina, where advocates who demonstrate dedication and commitment to Hawaii’s at-risk youth will be honored.

The special celebration will feature local artists, fine dining and a hearing of testimonies from committee members of Hoola Na Pua.

This year’s awards will go to Duke Gerhart and Duchess Dr. Nancy Atmospera-Walch from Advantage Health Care Provider, First Lady of Hawaii Jaime Kanani Green, and Hoola Na Pua Chairperson Karen Polivka.

“In the midst of the unfolding tragedy on Maui, we need to remember how youth who were already at risk are now even more vulnerable in this destabilized situation,” First Lady Green said in a press release.

Awards are given to individuals, organizations and companies who have taken a stand against sexual exploitation and advocate for systemic change to protect Hawaii’s most vulnerable population, our keiki.

For more information, visit hoolanapua.org.