Lava flow almost destroyed this woman’s home in 2014. Now, she’s volunteering to help other residents on the Big Island in Hawaii after the most recent volcanic eruption. She never expected it to be such a touching experience.
Uilani Soares was born and raised in Hawaii, and has a profound connection to the Big Island.
In 2014, her home on the Big Island was threatened when the Kilauea volcano erupted, sending lava toward her home and community.
The lava was initially flowing in the opposite direction to Soares’s town, but made a turn and headed toward her home.
Soares and her family packed up their belongings and prepared for the worst. The misery of uncertainty took a toll.
“It’s a long, painstaking rollercoaster of emotions. At first, it was a lot of praying that it wouldn’t happen,” Soares told The Epoch Times.
Soares and her family had a party at the house to be thankful for their home, and remember the pleasant experiences they had there.
“The last supper we called it,” Soares said.
Fortunately, just before the lava reached her house it veered left, sparing her home.
Soares had already been a volunteer with the Red Cross, and her sister had been with the Red Cross even longer.
When Soares’s sister was deployed to the Big Island during the 2014 eruption, she motivated Soares to become more engaged with the community when responding to lava flow.
“That’s what made me realize that it was a lot bigger, and a lot more important to help other people besides myself,” Soares recalled.
She thought more and more about families that have endured lava flow multiple times who needed help.
On May 3, 2018, the Kilauea volcano erupted again, which created another dangerous lava flow that continues to threaten residents of the Big Island.
The current lava flow is more severe than the eruption of 2014. The lava has hit the ocean, resulting in toxic fumes.
Remembering her experience in 2014, Soares stepped up to help her community.
Joining the Red Cross, she’s been able to meet and help a multitude of residents on the Big Island. It’s often the little things that mean the most to those in need, and many times the power of compassion was revealed to Soares.
On one occasion, Soares was speaking with a family that had a young daughter who was upset because she wasn’t able to reach their home, and couldn’t recover her toys.
She was deeply distraught, so Soares sat down with her and began singing. The little girl stopped crying and began singing with her. It was a welcome moment of relief.
“Before we knew it, she was happy, she was chuckling, and that meant the world to me,” Soares recalled.
Soares’s responsibilities involve going door to door to conduct surveys with the residents to see what they need, and to provide information about the lava flow.
On one such visit there was an elderly man who was upset that people were bothering him, and didn’t understand that the Red Cross was there to help him.
He was irritated because other volunteers had already visited his home. Soares spoke to the man respectfully, referring to him as “uncle,” which is a polite way to address a person that’s not family in Hawaii.
She used her sense of humor to break the tension.
“We haven’t been here before. I promise. If I’ve been here before, you would know because I’m pretty,” she joked with the man.
He laughed, and Soares was able to ask if he needed anything and let him know about the status of the lava flow.
The man later found out that Soares was one of his neighbors. In fact, Soares had always left a red gate on her property open so he and others could take a shortcut to work.
Soares was so communicative and empathetic that the man actually invited her and her partner in for dinner. However, there was more work to be done.
A third person Soares helped is just one example of how far compassion can go in a crisis.
An elderly woman was not only afraid of losing her home, she was also seriously ill.
The elderly woman didn’t know how much time she had left to live.
“All I did was listen to her share her fears, her concerns, her frustrations, wiped her tears, gave her hugs, and told her that I loved her and that she’s not alone,” Soares recalled.
Soares let her know that they would support her any way she needed, and that all of the Red Cross volunteers were there to help her.
She comforted the woman, and was able to soothe her enough to shift her mentality from fear to an optimistic state of mind.
Soares continues to volunteer, and help residents of the Big Island get through this most recent eruption and lava flow.
Her message for other residents and volunteers is simple:
“I encourage everybody that shares and helps others to just be gentle, to be caring, to be loving. Be compassionate.”