Finding Paradise

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According to the Leilani Farm Sanctuary website, when you take one of the tours offered three times a week, here’s what you may encounter: “A gentle cow munches contentedly in a shaded corner of rolling green pasture overlooking the sparkling Pacific. Goats frolic, deer bask in the warm sun, pigs roll happily in the mud, and a pair of inseparable donkeys anticipate sweet nibbles of carrots and apples. Friendly chickens cluck and turkeys gobble, while ducks and geese splash in ponds. Rabbits and guinea pigs scamper through cool gardens. Cats by the dozen greet visitors with expectant purrs. The sanctuary is truly a paradise for animals who have been rescued from a life of deprivation and have an opportunity to enjoy a bit of heaven right here on earth.”

It’s all true. An enchanting, storybook tableau, Maui’s only vegan animal refuge is home to about 300 goats, turkeys, rabbits, donkeys, cats, geese, pigs, tortoises, guinea pigs, ducks, deer, chickens and a cow.  Located in Haiku, the nearly eight-acre tropical haven is a place of healing and connection, a demonstration of how endearing “food” animals thrive in a cruelty-free environment while enriching the lives of the humans who love them.  If there’s a spiritual center for veganism on Maui, this is it.

To understand Leilani’s magic, listen to Nicole, one the team of volunteers who make the sanctuary’s operations possible: “Every other Thursday I head over to do the morning rounds. I get so very much from my friendships with each animal, from the neighs, the oinks, the squawks, and the cock-a-doodle-doos. These friendships heal me. They remind me of my place in the world, alongside others, rather than above or below them. It is here, on this farm, that I remember how the world could be versus how it is. I come away restored, refreshed and motivated to step even further into my faith in community and connection.”

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Most visitors are equally positive, like Linda, who commented in tripadvisor.com: “The best word I can give our experience is heartwarming. You can feel the love and happiness on the farm. The animals follow Laurelee around and share the pasture together. Everywhere you look is a beautiful feast for the eyes of flowers, trees, barns, and peaceful and content animals (okay, there were a few rascally goats and deer, but it takes all kinds!) It was so soothing to come to a place where animals are treated with kindness and love.” 

The Leilani Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit, educational organization, hosts programs for at-risk youth and special needs children, school field trips, elder activities, and farm tours for the public. Hawaiian residents and visitors from the mainland engage with animals in a way that changes their outlook about themselves and the environment.  They quickly discover that each living being can communicate and needs food, water, shelter and love.

Opened in March 2008, Leilani is the brainchild of Laurelee Blanchard. Her moving book, Finding Paradise, available at Maui Costco, Amazon.com, and other outlets, recounts how she gave up the high-powered world of commercial real estate to become an internationally respected protector of animals.

“I no longer measure success by how much money I make, how many deals I broker, or how I can out-earn my competitors,” Laurelee wrote. “I now find fulfillment in animal rescue and humane education, work that is aligned with my deepest, heartfelt mission: to do all that I can to reduce suffering in the world.”

“Laurelee Blanchard has done what millions dream of but few dare do,” comments Ocean Robbins, CEO of the Food Revolution Network. “She left behind the American dream of unlimited consumption and chose instead a deeper dream of limitless compassion. In the process she found her soul, and she has become a beacon of hope and of love for us all.”

The Leilani Farm Sanctuary does more than shelter animals; it opens minds. “When visitors come to the Sanctuary, we explain that each farm animal is an individual with a unique personality,” Laurelee notes. “We describe the animals’ personalities to the visitors. We give all the animals human names. Nancy the goat is someone, not something. Visitors often remark that after meeting the animals, they opt to go vegan. There have also been several instances of visitors becoming inspired to open farm sanctuaries of their own.”

If you need to find your soul or simply give it a jumpstart, support the Leilani Farm Sanctuary with your time and/or a donation to help secure its long-term future. To learn more, browse http://leilanifarmsanctuary.org/ or call 808-298-8544.

Then visit Leilani and see how the world could be.

Eric Baizer