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VASH stable despite lower visitor numbers

MEDIA RELEASE

VASH Hawaii Island serves visitors who experience some kind of misfortune during their stay on the Big Island. Because those services are funded primarily by the Transient Occupancy Tax through the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and because visitor numbers are down, VASH anticipated a budget cut for 2009.  

And while that cut did occur, it was not as large as expected.  

“We will be making some adjustments to our crime prevention efforts” Executive Director Linda Allen said, “but direct visitor services remain fully funded.”  

She said many local businesses provide support through gift certificates and discounts to meet needs for food, lodging, telephone calling cards, clothing, and other necessities. The agency also receives support through cash donations and grants. 

During 2008, VASH Hawaii Island provided supportive services to more than 600 visitors who experienced some kind of misfortune during their vacation on the island.  

VASH staff and volunteers provide a safety net for visitors affected by crime, medical emergencies, death or other misfortune who would otherwise have no support system available to them while away from home.  

VASH is able to help with transportation, lodging assistance, changes to travel plans, food, emotional support and other services.  

“Every case is different” Allen said. “Our goal is to ease the trauma and anxiety faced by visitors affected by misfortune. When they go home, we want the story they tell to be one that is about the aloha spirit rather than the misfortune that befell them.”

Of those served in 2008, 230 were visitors experiencing a medical emergency and 202 were victims of crime.  

Other situations involved accidents, lost wallets and purses, passengers who were stranded as a result of airline closures, and visitor deaths.  

Most referrals for VASH services come by way of the Police Department and area hospitals. These partnerships enable a quick response allowing staff or volunteers to assess needs and garner needed resources.  

— Find out more:

VASH Hawaii Island: 756-0392, www.vashbigisland.org

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