Susie Osbourne: 'They are children of Puna, and we nurture and love them, too'

Updated: Jun. 8, 2018 at 5:04 PM HST
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KAPOHO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of the students who attend the Kua O Ka La Charter School in Kapoho are residents of lower Puna. Plenty of the teachers are, too.

Most of them – according to Susie Osbourne, the head of the school – live in an area impacted by the lava and have had to leave the area.

"A smaller percentage, like myself, have lost their home," Osbourne says. "But it's just as traumatic to be evacuated and not (be able to) go back to your home."

The school, which focuses more on Hawaiian cultural values than the Hawaiian language, as a typical immersion school would, was evacuated last month after lava began flowing in the direction of the campus.

"I think the (week after the eruptions started), I got a call from Civil Defense that said a finger had broken out and I needed to evacuate the school," said Osbourne. "So we did the first big evacuation, a big crew of people, and part of the magnificence of the moment has been the community and how much aloha has manifested through this."

State and city crews turned up with flatbed trucks to assist in the move. Students and teachers have since taken up residency at facilities in Hilo and Waiakea – though their hearts remain at the Kapoho campus.

"People think, 'Oh, the lava is coming to the school, the school is gone,'" says Osbourne. "That's not the message."

The message, Osbourne says, is one of resiliency – a message she's had no choice but to practice herself, beginning on the first day of the eruptions.

"I was just coming back from work and started noticing some cracks," said Osbourne. "I did a little investigation on my property and saw some cracks. We looked out on the road and saw the county workers on the road measuring the cracks, and we both looked up, and fissure one, boom, the lava went. The workers started screaming get out, get out."

Between her school being evacuated and her home being destroyed, life has turned chaotic for Osbourne in recent weeks, even if it would be difficult to tell by talking to the students she helps educate every day.

"They're just unbelievably resilient, and the hardship is real," she says. "But I see them hugging each other and happy to be here. They are children of Puna, and we nurture and love them, too."

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

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