History of the City of Refuge in Ancient Hawaii

According to ancient Hawaiian legend the word Moku Ola literally means: “Island of Life”. It was endowed with mythical healing powers. If you swam around the island the healing powers would cure illness and ailments. In ancient times it was also a Pu’uhonua or place of refuge for injured warriors, kapu breakers, and other Hawaiians seeking safety in times of war. It is a sacred place of mana (spiritual power) that protected and sheltered all who reached it.

In Hawaiian mythology Moku Ola was created as a result of the demi-god Maui trying to physically reunite the islands of Maui and the Big Island. Maui had a magical fishhook and had hooked the island of Maui; then he commanded his servants to row with all their might to move the island toward the Big Island… but he cautioned everyone not to look back at the island as they rowed, for if they did, the spell of the magic fishhook would be broken.

Well wouldn’t you know it, just as the task was almost accomplished, some overly curious rower disobeyed Maui and looked back to see the progress- and guess what happened? The island of Maui and Hawaii (the Big Island) went right back to their former positions, except for the one piece that was stuck on the magical fishhook- that little piece is Moku Ola.

Today Moku Ola remains a significant cultural resource recognized for its powers of healing and purification.


What is the history of the project?

The City of Refuge Veterans Center Inc was an idea that we came up with when my father Capt. Donald “Red” Lambert, a 100% disabled US Marine Corps veteran, was slowly dying of multiple organ failure. Dealing with the Veterans Administration was extremely frustrating. I’m also a US Marine Corps veteran and a chronic pain patient for over 20 years. I know what these veterans are going through, having suffered from chronic pain, chronic depression, and addiction myself. I knew there was a better way to take care of the men and women that served our country so proudly. The City of Refuge was a holistic vision that we came up with to help all veterans quickly, compassionately and effectively. All across the United States, 22 veterans commit suicide everyday. Veterans are three times more likely to commit suicide, than ordinary civilians. It’s because of this, that I decided to take action now.

How was this project decided?

When my father was ill, we talked about how the treatment of veterans these days was absolutely shameful. After dealing with the VA, and becoming hopelessly frustrated, I understood why the suicide rate among veterans was so high. I had a vision to find a better way to help these men and women. My father told me that this was the most important project of my lifetime. I promised him before he passed away, that I’d follow through and build a holistic treatment center for all veterans.

Who will this project help?

Veterans from all 50 States

Why is this project important?

Many veterans are returning from combat suffering from a variety of disorders. Many haven’t filed for disability benefits yet, have been denied benefits, or live too far away from a VA Clinic to receive any kind of tangible help. Without professional assistance, many of these veterans engage in self-medication with alcohol, illegal and prescription drugs. This starts a downward spiral of depression and self-loathing that is hard, if not impossible, to recover from. They need professional assistance, and I plan on providing it to them. If we can afford to send our troops to Iraq and Afghanistan for a tour of duty, we certainly can afford to send them to Maui for a few weeks of treatment and support. These suicides affect hundreds of thousands of family members every year. My mission is to help these brave men and women before it’s to late.

How will the money raised be spent?

Increasing our administrative capabilities. Targeting qualified individuals to add to our team. To raise veteran mental health awareness issues, and our proposed treatment solutions. Campus development feasibility studies:

  • 1. Master planning
  • 2. Facilities
  • 3. Architecture
  • 4. Engineering

Capt. Keith D. Lambert
Native Hawaiian Veteran
Founder & Executive Director
City of Refuge Veterans Center Inc.

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