Oprah Winfrey has addressed the recent backlash regarding the People’s Fund of Maui, a philanthropic initiative she launched alongside Dwayne Johnson to aid victims of the devastating Maui wildfires. The fund saw both Winfrey and Johnson commit $5 million each to assist those affected by the fires in Lahaina. However, criticism arose as many questioned why individuals with such substantial net worths were soliciting donations.
Winfrey, in an interview on CBS Mornings while promoting her new book “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier,” expressed surprise at the backlash. She discussed the impact of online attacks and noted that it inspired greater compassion for younger individuals who might be affected by such online negativity.
The media mogul clarified that the fund’s primary focus was the people of Maui, emphasizing that she initiated the fund after witnessing the devastation firsthand. Initially, she provided material assistance, such as generators and towels, but later realized that people wanted greater control over their recovery. She cited Dolly Parton’s successful approach in aiding victims of the 2017 Gatlinburg, Tennessee fires by distributing funds directly to them, inspiring the idea behind the People’s Fund of Maui.
The fund aimed to start with $10 million, with the hope that others would contribute. Oprah acknowledged the initial enthusiasm for the initiative and expressed her belief in the idea of placing money directly into the hands of those affected. Despite the initial positive response, she was disheartened by the vitriol and negativity the fund generated.
Oprah clarified that the fund had successfully cleared and verified 2,200 people who would soon receive financial assistance. She reiterated the importance of directly helping those affected and expressed sadness over the divisive state of the country.
The Maui wildfires, collectively known as the “Hawaii Firestorm,” began in early August on the island of Maui. They were attributed to a combination of factors, including dry conditions caused by a high-pressure area to the north and Hurricane Dora to the south. The fires particularly devastated the historic town of Lahaina, with FEMA estimating the destruction of 2,200 buildings, many of which were residential and historically significant. The total damage was estimated to be over $5.5 billion, and containment efforts continue for some of the fires.
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Derek Chan – Editor