The Journey Home

A New Start

27 years ago, Derek Salis was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor that put him out of work and given only a six-month prognosis. After surgery to remove the mass, it left him partially paralyzed and made him unable to provide for his five children as a single father.

“We became homeless,” Derek’s son, Ona says. “We lived in a horse stable for about a year.” After years of homelessness, they were able to move into public housing but continued to have difficulties making ends meet. With the assistance from AUW’s 2-1-1 program, it connected them with programs in the community that helped them to rebuild their lives.

Their lives suddenly changed four years ago when the Department of Hawaiian Homelands said they had a piece of land available. Mr. Salis placed his name on the list in 1959. Their joy became heartbreak when financially they could not afford to build on their lot.

In addition to the 2-1-1 support they received, a partnership with a number of AUW ALICE® funded organizations helped them to get the financial counseling, workforce training, and resources needed to begin building their new home. The Salis family worked side by side with volunteers and specialists for over nine months starting from the ground up. The day they received the key to their new house was a start for a new life for the family that had to endure so much. Mr. Salis has beaten the odds and now has a place for his family to call home.

Workplace giving campaigns such as CFC are a significant source of support for the community. AUW distributed over $18M last year including funding to strengthen programs specifically serving ALICE® families, those who are “Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained and Employed” meaning that they are fully employed but struggle to make ends meet, and provides the free and confidential 2-1-1 helpline that connects people with multiple services such as food banks, shelters, financial assistance, and so more.

The Aloha United Way legacy has been built on our history of adapting to meet our community’s greatest needs. We will continue to take the lead in creating an equitable environment where every family and individual is empowered, thriving, able to weather acute and chronic hardships, and is continually striving to better their community.

To watch the Salis’s story, please visit:

Charity Name
Aloha United Way
Photo Caption
Ona and Derek Salis in front of their new home.
Photo Credit
Hawaii Business