Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii – Caring For Visitors Touched by Adversity

By Karen Rose

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were on vacation thousands of miles from home when tragedy strikes? It’s not something most people like to think about when making plans to visit paradise, but unfortunately, adversities can happen anywhere. Fortunately for visitors to Hawaiʻi, there is an organization there to assist when something goes array. The islands of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, Maui and Kauaʻi each have independently run visitor assistance programs designed to offer support services to those in need, known as the Visitor Aloha Society.

Although each island’s visitor assistance program is unique to their particular location, every program is designed to share the aloha spirit with visitors affected by adversity. VASH recognizes that even during the fun and relaxation of vacations, unfortunate events can happen. And when far from home, visitors do not usually have access to their own support systems and resources.

VASH assistance is designed to help visitors cope with, and recover from, a variety of unfortunate situations such as crime victimization, the loss of a purse or wallet, medical situations or the death of a loved one. Their vision is that every visitor touched by adversity will also be touched by the aloha spirit.


Visitors are eligible for services upon referral from an appropriate agency such as the Hawai`i Police Department, local hospitals or others in the visitor industry. Visitors are far from home—far from family and friends and their own resources and support systems. VASH services are funded by the visitor hotel tax dollars through the Hawai`i Tourism Authority and are intended to provide a safety net for visitors.

How to Receive Services

The services VASH provides vary with each situation. VASH staff or volunteers assess each case on an individual basis and prioritize needs. This may involve a personal visit or a phone call with a visitor, as well as those supportive services that might be needed. Some of the more typical services may include the following:
• Information and Referral (i.e. credit card cancelations, ID theft information, etc.)
• Food certificates (restaurant and/or grocery store) to meet immediate needs
• Local emergency transportation (i.e. from hospital to hotel)
• Assistance with changes to travel, lodging and rental car arrangements
• Emotional support
• Bereavement support in visitor death cases

The goal of VASH is to be the family or friendly neighbor next door for a visitor who is far from home and their own support systems. VASH wants the stories visitors tell upon returning home to be about the care and love they received – the aloha – rather than the unfortunate incident.

For more information, visit:

Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (Oahu)
Jessica Lani Rich, President and Executive Director
Telephone: (808) 926-8274

Visitor Aloha Society of Kauai
Daphne Therese, Executive Director
Telephone: (808) 482-0111

VASH Maui (Maui County)
Janet Kuwahara, Director of VASH
Telephone: (808) 244-3530

Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii Island
Karen Rose, Executive Director
Telephone: (808) 756-0785 – Kona
Telephone: (808) 756-1472 – Hilo

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