Kalawao was originally a Hawaiian fishing village. The local people assisted the sick until the Hawaiian Government labeled it a leper colony and forbade any unauthorized persons from visiting. The Kalawao site is ideal for this purpose because it is a peninsula surrounded by the highest sea cliffs in the world, 3’600 ft high. There is only one path down onto the peninsula; otherwise a boat was the only other way into the colony. Nowadays we use airplanes.
When Father Damien initially came to Kalawao from Belgium he was supposed to stay for 3 months only. He was regarded with fear and mistrust by the residents of the leper community but he embraced their customs, he ate with them, he worked with them to build homes and he nursed the sick. He also sent for materials and medical aid from the islands and built a hospital for the chronically ill. Furthermore he restored their sense of self-respect.
During the last 6 years of his life Father Damien suffered from the sickness he was trying so hard to eliminate. However due to several miracles being associated with The Blessed Father Damien, Pope Benedict XVI Canonized him on October 11, 2009.
Damien Tours hopes you enjoy your own personal encounter with Father Damien, as you tread where he has trodden and sit under the Panama Tree where he used to take his afternoon nap and contemplate a life very different from our own and yet rich in hope, faith and Aloha.
The entire trip is an enlightening and emotional experience. With the dramatic scenery of Kalawao, and the simplicity of the church and it’s setting; it is easy to get caught up in the story of Father Damien and his cause.
Father Damien Tours