Volunteer recounts aiding in Maui after fires
by Ashley Shah
Natasha Mar, a resident of Scripps Ranch, traveled to Maui last summer to support the community after disastrous wildfires struck the area.
Mar went with the San Diego Loves Maui organization.
“I got involved with this opportunity because of other organizations I am in. I am a part of the Thai American Chamber of Commerce, Asian Pacific Islander Initiative and do volunteer work at the temple in Escondido. Through these organizations, I met Joann Fields. We were able to create a group of people that went to Maui,” Mar said.
On Aug. 27, the group started its work to help those in Maui.
“We held a drive in San Diego to gather basic needed supplies for those in Maui, which we advertised online through social media. We gathered new clothes, toiletries, canned food and more. We shipped the supplies to Maui,” Mar said.
The group traveled to Maui and provided aid from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.
“When we landed in Maui, we started distributing the supplies that we had shipped over from the drive. We worked with organizations, such as Lahaina Gateway, to support in the areas that needed it most. We also worked with the World Central Kitchen to help cook for the people that were affected,” she said.
Mar had a unique learning experience since she was the youngest in the group.
“There were a lot of strong minded people on the trip, and it made me learn how to be a leader. Now, I feel like I know what it means to be a leader, and how to take on that role,” she said. “The other major part of learning was getting to know the locals. Their culture and lives are so rich. I really learned how to listen and empathize. They had so much to share, and I had so much to gain from that.”
Mar described some moments from the trip that she will always remember.
“The most memorable parts of the trip were also the most devastating parts of the trip. I had the chance to drive past the areas where the fire had affected the homes. There was one single home standing, and that image stuck with me,” she said. “We went on the freeway, and there was a row of crosses for those who were missing or had passed. Seeing that was chilling, and something I will never forget.”
The trip marked a big opportunity for Mar.
“I feel like we always see things on social media that we wish we could help out with. However, this time I was given an opportunity to actually help out. I want to be part of the hands-on efforts. I don’t want to just listen or see the work that is being done to help out,” she said.
Mar is grateful for a once in a lifetime experience.
Outside of her work in volunteering, she is a first year student at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying music industry and cognitive sciences.
In her free time, she enjoys trying new food places, jamming out on piano, cello, or singing, and going for hikes.
Mar just received a letter from the White House presenting her with the President’s Silver Volunteer Service Award in recognition of 250 hours of volunteer service, signed by President Joe Biden.