Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Riding Muleback to a Forbidden Village: Kalaupapa’s Leper Colony

It was probably one of the most difficult ventures I’d ever undertaken, riding a mule down a 1700-vertical foot, 26-switchback trail to the formerly forbidden village of Kalaupapa on the Island of Molokai, Hawaii.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park’s mission is to preserve the memories and experiences of the past in order that valuable lessons might be learned from them. Since no roads connect Kalaupapa with the rest of Molokai, the village can be approached only by flying in, hiking, or by mule. Visitors must come with a designated group, so arrangements must be made in advance.
When I was a high school junior, I wrote a report on leprosy, more properly called Hansen’s Disease, and learned about Father Damien. Elevated by the Catholic Church in October, 2009 to Saint Damien of Molokai, he dedicated his life to those who suffered that most terrible disease, leprosy. Since writing my school report, Father Damien and the leper colony has held great fascination for me.
By Mary E. Trimble

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