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A banyan tree
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Five months ago, I touched down in Hawaii, my 49th state. I spent a week exploring Maui, with activities ranging from volcano cycling to ocean kayaking to waterfall rappelling.

Amidst my adventures, the biggest surprise waiting for me was the town of Lahaina. On two occasions, I had hours to spare while waiting for boats to depart from the local dock. I walked the main road of Lahaina, stopping into art galleries, reading historical plaques, getting pizza, and chatting with the locals. It was a beautiful, welcoming, and vibrant community that I promised to revisit, should I ever find myself back on the island.

Most noticeable was the town center’s sprawling banyan tree, which, just a month later, celebrated its 150th birthday. I don’t know that I’d ever seen a banyan tree before, but I immediately recognized it from this comic. Early in my career as a digital nomad, as I sought to redefine my sense of “home”, this illustration brought me comfort.

Today, Lahaina is in ruin. The deadliest wildfire in United States history has struck Hawaii, leaving over 100 people dead and 800 people missing. Even residents whose lives or property were not directly affected by the fire are nonetheless impacted by the loss of tourism, forcing many small businesses into near bankruptcy. And the survival of the banyan tree, which is currently in a coma, remains uncertain.

It’s astonishing that something I saw for the first time just months ago is now so irrevocably changed. I wish I could go back in time and cherish those moments even more than I did. But all we can do here in the present is help those whose lives and homes have been affected by this tragedy.

Charity Navigator, an independent organization that evaluates non-profits, has compiled a list of 26 charities that benefit the residents of Hawaii and Maui. All the charities are highly rated by Charity Navigator’s criteria, with scores of 90–100%.

For my initial donations, I chose to support the Hawai’i Community Foundation, which is “providing financial resources that can be deployed quickly, with a focus on rapid response and recovery for the devastating wildfires on Maui”; and the Maui Humane Society, which supports residents in finding, keeping, and feeding their pets during these difficult times.

Donations can be accepted online directly through the organizations’ websites; if you wish to donate anonymously, you may do so through Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket, or through a donor-advised fund (DAF) such as Charityvest.

Not all of us are in a position to help — but if you can, the people of Lahaina need our support in this difficult time. May they find, like the banyan tree, that their roots are deep are strong.

Ken Gagne

Digital nomad, Apple II geek, vegetarian, teacher, cyclist, feminist, Automattician.

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