Oprah Winfrey starts Maui-fires recovery fund after backlash

Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson are teaming up to provide financial aid to those who have been affected by the historic Maui fires that ravaged the Hawaiian island earlier this month.

The pair announced their charitable foundation Thursday in a joint Instagram video.

“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,” Winfrey said. “So if you send a donation … that money is going to go to one of many residents who have been displaced in Maui — we guarantee it.”

Every adult Maui resident who was affected by the wildfires, which were the deadliest of the last century in the U.S., is eligible to receive $1,200 per month as they recover from the natural disaster. Those who qualify can apply for relief on the fund’s website.

The two stars were compelled to launch the fund in part because they were fielding questions from people close to them about which foundations would provide the most immediate help to those affected.

“I know a lot of people out there … are just having a hard time trusting where the money goes,” Johnson said. “The fund that we created … is a clean direct from you, directly to their hands, and right away with some real immediacy, because as we’re finding — that you guys around the world know — with disasters like this, the No. 1 need is money.”

Winfrey and Johnson started their campaign with a $10-million donation to those who suffered from the wildfires in Lahaina and Kula.

“So people being able to have their own agency being able to make decisions for themselves about what they need, and when their family needs. That’s our goal is to get that to the people now,” Winfrey continued in the video. “And so we appreciate any support you can give. All the people who are calling me and texting me and messaging me and saying, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’ This is what you do!”

On Instagram earlier this month, Winfrey, who owns more than 1,000 acres of land in Maui, promised to “make a major donation” to help the island recover.

Commenters online were quick to criticize the former talk-show host for her response and the fact that she owns land on the island.

Johnson, who is of Polynesian descent, also posted on Instagram about the natural disaster as it struck the island earlier this month.

“I’m completely heartbroken over this, and I know that all of you are too,” said Johnson, who tagged the nonprofit organization Hawaii Community Foundation in that post. “Everything that I’ve seen transpire over these past couple of days, everything that continues to transpire, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, it’s all heartbreaking.”

The Times has assembled a list of trusted organizations that are accepting donations to help Maui wildfire victims.

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