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Who We Are

Seventy Kakaupapa residents, family members and friends gather in Kalaupapa in August, 2003, to organize Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa.

Photo: ©Wayne Levin

Kuulei Bell.jpg

Kuulei Bell, longtime postmistress at Kalaupapa and community leader, was elected first President of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa.

Photo: ©Wayne Levin

Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa was established in August, 2003, at the request of the Kalaupapa community during a workshop attended by 70 Kalaupapa residents, family members and friends.

The ‘Ohana was envisioned by the great Kalaupapa leader Bernard K. Punikai`a who was concerned that as the community of Kalaupapa aged and the population got smaller, their voices would no longer be heard. It was Bernard’s idea to bring together family members and friends to support the residents.



The seeds for Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa were planted during a workshop held at Kalaupapa in 1996 (see “Early Beginnings” on this link). For a few years, “the Kalaupapa ‘Ohana” sponsored exhibits and attended conferences as an affiliation without being officially consolidated. In the summer of 2003, Bernard called for another workshop where it was decided to organize Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa and apply for nonprofit status.


Bernard served as the Chairman of the Board. Other Kalaupapa leaders were voted as officers and Board Members: Kuulei Bell, longtime Postmistress, was the first President; Winnie Harada was Vice President and businesswoman Gloria Marks was Treasurer; Makia Malo and Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa were members of the Board.


Ka ‘Ohana dedicated itself to promoting the value and dignity of every individual who was taken from their family and forcibly isolated on the peninsula known as Kalaupapa due to government policies regarding leprosy (now also called Hansen’s disease). The ‘Ohana also recognized the importance of the kama`aina, mea kokua and children who were born at Kalaupapa.

Over the years, the mission and programs of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa have expanded beyond what we ever imagined possible in that first workshop. Ka ‘Ohana has produced an array of educational materials and exhibits; helped more than 900 descendants learn more about their Kalaupapa ancestors; created a virtual concert about “The Music of Kalaupapa,” and worked with the State Legislature to designate January annually as Kalaupapa Month.


Ka ‘Ohana has received seven Preservation Awards from Historic Hawai`i Foundation in recognition of the excellence of our projects and programs that are preserving the history of Kalaupapa and the voices of the people.


Our biggest project is The Kalaupapa Memorial which will display the names of everyone who was admitted to Kalaupapa -- the US Congress authorized Ka ‘Ohana to establish the Memorial and the Hawai`i State Legislature recently approved $5 million to build the Memorial.


Ka ‘Ohana is made up of Kalaupapa residents, their family members/descendants, friends of the community, students, clergy and anyone interested in the future of Kalaupapa and her residents.


We hope you will join us in our efforts to honor the people of Kalaupapa and to perpetuate their lives and legacies.

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