Celebrities create Hawaii wildfire relief fund and kick it off with $10m


Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson have donated $10m (£7.9m) to a Maui relief fund they’ve created, to help those affected by deadly wildfires in Hawaii.

The Hollywood stars say donations for the People’s Fund Of Maui will be sent “directly” to residents who are trying to rebuild their homes following the fires, which have killed at least 114 people.

The wildfires, which completely destroyed the town of Lahaina, are the deadliest in the US in more than a century.

Winfrey is a part-time resident of Maui while Johnson, also known by his former ring name as The Rock, who is of Samoan descent, lived in Hawaii as a child. He went on to voice the character of demigod Maui in Disney film Moana.

Winfrey said she was inspired to create the fund after reading about the success of country music veteran Dolly Parton and her My People Fund, set up to offer financial assistance to residents following the wildfires in Sevier County, Tennessee, in 2016.

Sharing a video alongside Johnson on Instagram, Winfrey said the pair had seen first-hand the “devastating” impact of the fires and wanted to find a way that would guarantee donations would go “directly into the hands of Lahaina residents”.

She said: “We were so concerned about what was happening in Maui that we were texting back and forth and I read this article that Dolly Parton had given money in her community and I said ‘I think this is the answer’.”

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She went on: “So, we have created the People’s Fund Of Maui that will put money directly in the hands of the people who need it right now. If you send a donation… that money is going to go to one of many residents who have been displaced in Maui, we guarantee.”

Johnson, with his arm around Winfrey’s shoulder, continued: “I know a lot of people out there, as Oprah and I have been finding, are having a hard time trusting where the money goes.

“It is a clean direct from you to their hands, and right away with some real immediacy because as we’re finding, as you guys around the world know, with disasters like this the number one need is money in hand.”

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Winfrey went on: “People being able to have their own agency, being able to make decisions for themselves about what they need and what their family needs, that’s our goal – to get that to the people now.”

The fund, part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, will allow every resident over the age of 18 who lost their “primary residence” in the wildfires to apply for $1,200 per month.

It’s available to homeowners and renters, but not to owners who did not live in the buildings that were destroyed.