In 1947, Imua Family Services was founded to serve children afflicted with polio. Many things have changed in the intervening decades, but one thing hasn’t: the Wailuku-based organization’s commitment to helping keiki in need.
“Our mission is to provide a community service to a very vulnerable population,” says Sonya Niess, program manager for Camp Imua. Every year, Camp Imua takes a group of young people age 6-20 with physical and mental disabilities for a week of activities, games and, most importantly, supportive interaction at Camp Maluhia in the West Maui Mountains. And it’s offered at no cost to families. The camp is part of Imua Family Services’ larger mission to support special needs youth. It’s the only organization of its kind on Maui, and, Neiss says, possibly the state.
Lately, we’ve heard a lot about services being slashed. As is always the case, the poor and disadvantaged have been hit hardest. So it’s nice to see a ray of hope, an organization that’s finding ways to do good work despite the prevailing economic realities. Imua, which subsists on donations and a small slice of grant money, has certainly felt the pinch. Neiss says they’re “figuring out how to make due with limited funds”–a familiar refrain. “This really depends on the community coming together,” she says.
Which is where you come in. Imua needs volunteers to make this year’s camp happen. What’s the experience like? In a testimonial posted on Imua’s Web site, volunteer Forrest Glick puts it like this: “Spending a week working with a special needs child changed my outlook by showing me the world through a different lens. Camp Imua is…an opportunity to experience the world as a kid again. It’s about swimming, laughing, helicopter rides and making new friends. It’s a chance to see past what you can’t do, to focus on what you can. Camp Imua is about supporting each other, both as a community and a caregiver. The week is exhausting, but at the end of five days you know you made a real difference. The laughs and smiles stay with you all year long.”
“You give one week,” adds Neiss, “and you can make a lifetime of memories.”
For volunteer information, or to find out if spaces in the camp are still available, call 244-7467 or visit www.imuafamilyservices.org