Sunday, May 2, 2010


I went on a day trip yesterday with some girlfriends to visit the island of Molokai. Before we moved to Hawaii I never knew or understood what existed on Molokai-a leper colony where 8,000 people (mostly Polynesian) were exiled and forgotten by society. Here we are ready to board the plane to begin our adventure.

The Kalaupapa Peninsula, surrounded by ocean and cut off by the rest of Molokai by 1,600 foot cliffs, is the location of the leper colony. You can see why it was considered a "prison" to them. There is no vehicle access. There is a 3 mile trail that zigzags down the cliffs. In the days of the leper colony, the trail was patrolled topside by dogs and guards to prevent patients from escaping.

The Kalaupapa settlement, location of the leper colony where 19 patients still live today. Exile of patients ceased in 1969 after a cure was discovered, but these patients still wish to live out the rest of their lives here in peace. For most, this island was all they ever knew, forgotten by family and ostracized by society when they tried to reintegrate.

The Kalauapapa airport...seriously, this is the whole thing.

The graveyard on Kalaupapa. It went on and on. Most graves are unmarked, markers washed away by a tsunami or families were too poor.

Ruins are all that are left of the Leprosy Investigation station, erected by the government to experiment on patients who volunteered. However, most patients left due to the even stricter isolation and cruel treatment sociably by doctores. The station only lasted 5 years.

The small island to the far left is where ships anchored to deliver exiles. They were sent aboard by small row boats with 1 set of clothes and 1 week of food. Once ashore, they were given nothing, not even homes. They had to completely fend for themselves...some even residing in caves. This is where Father Damien came into the picture. He arrived and built a settlement for the exiles, providing shelter, protection for the younger children (there was much lawlessness and slavery of young and weak with no justice system), first aid care, fresh water, hope and encouragement.

Father Damien's church (with his grave right next to it)

It was an amazing day. The island is filled with so much serenity and beauty, but held so much sorrow and pain. I will never forget this experience. For those more interested, I highly recommend the book "Molokai" which we all read before our trip. It is a beautiful story, historical fiction, so well written, and really captures the tale of this place.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading that book right now!! I'm nearly finished, and I absolutely loved it. I just had to comment because I'd been wondering what it's like now, and nearly peed my pants in excitement to see your post today :)

    -Rachel (Carlblom) Ribar