Looking back, the pain of separation seems worse than the pain of disease. Now we ask, why did this happen? Why were almost 8,000 people torn from their families and sent into isolation, most for the rest of their lives?
Kalaupapa serves as a reminder of a nation in crisis, when Hawaiian people were dying from introduced diseases for which they had no immunities. Options for preventing the spread of contagious diseases were few. Isolation for leprosy seemed like the best solution, but it came at a high personal cost.
Kalaupapa, once a community in isolation, now serves as a place for education and contemplation. It is a place where many families in Hawai`i reconnect with a grandparent or great-grandparent once considered "lost." It is a place where past suffering has given way to personal pride about accomplishments in the face of adversity. It is a place where each of us can reconsider our emotional and physical responses to people with disfiguring disabilities or illnesses. It is a place where the land has the power to heal—because of its human history, natural history, and stunning physical beauty.
Aloha. The National Park Service invites you to learn more about this special place.
Did You Know?
Father Damien and patient helpers enlarged St. Philomena Catholic Church, a tiny wooden structure built in 1872, by adding a nave in 1876. After the steeple collapsed in a wind storm, he began constructing the larger masonry and wood main nave in 1888, which is the church seen at Kalawao today.