Hawaii – Coronavirus Community Hubs

Picture of the Big Island

By: T. Jeffersonian

Vibrant Hawaii is an initiative that has brought local organizations and community
leaders together to create community Resiliency Hubs on the Big Island. The Hubs are designed to create a safe learning space for Hawaii youth by providing access to Wifi, laptops, and other social activities. Local restaurants provide meals and supply produce bags to Hub participants.

The Resiliency Hubs provide up-to-date information related to coronavirus mitigation, as well as, other resources for the those financially, emotionally, and socially impacted by coronavirus. Each unit is deliberately located in gap areas, such as rural communities, where many Hawaii residents are struggling right now.
The Hubs initiative was first launched between September and December 2020 and
originally received Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funding from Hawaii County. With new funds provided by Big Island residents, the initiative is now able to run through May 2021 and is expected to support up to 3,000 individuals per week.

Since the start of the initiative, there have been 20 community Hubs set up across Hawaii Island. More than 30 communities around the Big Island have been served. Nearly 42,000 households and roughly 108,000 individuals have been helped. Of the 100,000+ individuals, 38 percent of them were under the age of 18. The composition of each Hub looks distinctly different because of the facilities where each Hub is based and due to the varying resources available to and supporting each of the individual units.

Hubs are a tangible demonstration of Hawaii’s resiliency and the strength, courage, and generosity of the state’s citizens and businesses. Our state’s citizens have always represented our greatest strength and our greatest opportunity. Hubs such as these are not an entirely new concept. The concept is reminiscent of an auxiliary. Auxiliaries are personnel that assist the military or first responders but are organized differently from such organizations.

Auxiliaries may be volunteers undertaking support functions or performing certain duties such as garrison troops or clerical staff, usually on a part-time basis. Unlike a military reserve force or a National Guard, an auxiliary does not have the same degree of training as regular soldiers or integration into a fighting force. Some are former military active-duty personnel who actually have more versatile training than do some of their counterparts.

During this pandemic and for future pandemic preparedness, the state is encouraged to standardize the Hubs’ compositions and missions and through that standardization to organize a Hawaii Community Auxiliary. In times of crisis, pandemic or tsunami as we saw earlier this week, the Hawaii Community Auxiliary could be mobilized to augment first responders, the National Guard, or other state and federal organizations. Beyond the Auxiliary itself, those local businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, transportation companies, and even places of worship, can be solicited and contacted to provide emergency services and supplies supporting
each Auxiliary location.

Hawaii is the most isolated population location on Earth. We are the widest east-to-west state in the Union. If something goes wrong here, we will have to support ourselves first before substantial external help can arrive from the mainland. Even as we have seen during the coronavirus crisis, we have seen and still feel the isolation imposed on travel interisland.

Hawaii County and Vibrant Hawaii have demonstrated the local resiliency on which
future crisis responses in our island state can be augmented. We must seize this resilient opportunity and organize, train, and connect local resources to a Hawaii Community Auxiliary. Once perfected, we can export our example and our expertise to the mainland and to the rest of the island countries in the Pacific so that we are all best prepared.