The island of Maui has been burning like never before in its history, destroying trees, houses, and lives. Hawaii watches in despair as its historical and cultural heritage, centered in the ancient capital of Lahaina, fades away and turns into ashes. The flames of the deadliest fire in the US have claimed a hundred lives, and there are still dozens of missing persons to be found. This is in stark contrast to what the islands have meant mentally and emotionally for millions of Americans for decades, especially for the wealthier ones: a paradise to spend leisure time, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. That is why many of them have rallied from day one to help the affected, and now Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson, known as The Rock, have materialized that help by creating an aid fund and contributing an initial $10 million.
This contribution (equivalent to about 9.2 million euros at the current exchange rate) is just the beginning of what the talk show host and producer and the actor intend to raise through the People’s Fund of Maui, encouraging everyone to donate whatever they can so that it goes directly to the island’s residents. So directly, in fact, that they promise that anyone who requests it and meets the requirements can receive $1,200 per month (approximately 1,100 euros). Request forms have been open since Thursday.
The 51-year-old ‘The Rock’ and the 69-year-old Winfrey have announced the creation of this fund through a joint message on their Instagram accounts, where she has 23 million followers and he has an impressive 390 million, making him one of the most followed people on the platform worldwide. “In the past few weeks, I have been meeting with members of the community who have been impacted by the fires, asking them what they needed most and how I could help,” said the talk show host, actress, and producer in the joint statement released by both stars. “The most important thing that I have heard is their concern about how to move forward under this immense financial burden.” This is why they have decided to distribute this money directly.
In addition to their financial contributions, they have raised over $400,000 (around 370,000 euros) in just eight hours. In their joint video, they explain that the idea came to them when, concerned and exchanging text messages about how to help, Oprah discovered that singer Dolly Parton had given money “directly to her community,” and they decided to follow suit. “That direct money is going to go to some of the many affected residents, we guarantee it,” she said, while the actor explained that many people have doubts about whether monetary contributions will reach their intended destination. “In disasters like these, the first need is money,” they both state, and as well-known figures, they want to ensure that the funding goes where it is supposed to.
Both ‘The Rock’ and Winfrey have strong ties to Hawaii. The ‘Fast & Furious’ actor is a lover of the archipelago’s culture and got married here in 2019 to his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian, with whom he had been in a relationship for 12 years and with whom he has two daughters, Jasmine and Tiana. The actor has had a foundation since 2006 that helps terminally ill children and is a great philanthropist: he has donated to hospitals, universities, natural disasters, abandoned animals, and most recently, actors on strike. In Hawaii, he had already donated large amounts of money to build a gymnasium on a military base and to help after hurricanes. Winfrey, on the other hand, has a house on the island where she spends long periods of time and was determined from the outset to broadcast many hours of television about the fires, although she was not always well received at the facilities where she wanted to do her program, as there were vulnerable people there who had lost everything. The television star has an immense farm in Maui of about 3.5 kilometers in the Kula area, in the center of the island.