In Hawaii, Family Heals Scars of Leprosy

Though Unea would get leprosy himself, he continued to give families living back home legal assistance with marital issues.

"For my family, learning about our great Tutu has brought us much consolation, encouragement and dignity, providing a sense of closure for our family tree, where we now can fill gaps that once were void," she said. "This for us is a lifetime treasure that we hold dear to our hearts."

Great-Great Uncle Worked With Damien

Through the help of the 'Ohana, Monica Bacon found she was the great-grand niece of Ambrose Hutchison, who had worked closely with Father Damien. The son of a Scottish father and a Hawaiian mother, he was confined from 1879 to 1932, serving on the board of health.

Bacon, an architectural historian from Honolulu, was able to visit Kalaupapa twice in 2008.

"Going there was an emotional voyage for me," she told "I was able to meet some of the patients and enjoy the physical beauty of the place, with its pristine ocean waters and tropical setting. But I also had to mentally go through the process of trying to fully comprehend the life that Uncle Ambrose and others had to live there, despite being in such a 'paradise.'"

The 'Ohana was officially formed in 2003 to ensure that Kalaupapa's history would be preserved. To date, they have helped dozens find photos, stories and the graves of their family members.

The group has assembled a growing digital database of the first 5,000 patients and is now raising money for a monument that will list the names of the estimated 8,000 people isolated because of the disease.

The 'Right to Be Remembered'

"We are returning what was taken away -- that right to be remembered in your own history," said Law, who lives in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

As international coordinator for the civil rights organization IDEA, which is partnering with 'Ohana to inititate discussions between countries on restoring family ties among those with leprosy.

"Unless you bring families back together, there is always stigma and things are never quite right," said Law, who is compiling the oral histories of 100 Kalaupapa patients and is also publishing a book on Father Damien to coincide with his entry into sainthood.

As for Taka Harada, he is ready to publish a collection of poems he wrote about Kalaupapa. He joined Paul, a pillar of the Kalaupapa Catholic community, at the 1995 ceremony of the return of Father Damien's "relic" -- a hand -- for burial.

Paul, a former sheriff at Kalaupapa who bore the scar of the engine burn his entire life, died last year. "Because of you," writes Taka Harada, "I am a better person…I am whole."

"I know Paul did not die bitter because of what fate had dealt him," said Harada. "He had felt in 1945 that he would die in 1950 because the sores and the disease began to wrack his body. He never dreamed that he would live to be 81 years old."

Taka Harada, who has been an ambassador for the 'Ohana in Japan, where separation policies only ended in 1996, shares his stories about the "spiritual and emotional" place, Kalaupapa.

"It reminds us never to repeat such wrong and cruelty done to our fellow human beings because of ignorance and prejudice," he said. "Their legacy is one of great personal sacrifice when they were separated from loved ones, their friends, their dreams."

"We've always had a tendency to discriminate and exclude people from society," said Harada. "What was important to Paul, when AIDS came out was don't discard them. This is the legacy of Kalaupapa. We want to make sure people remember and don't make the same mistakes."

Click here to learn more about Ka'Ohana O Kalaupapa 'Ohana and IDEA.

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