New center in Waikiki to tell the story of Hansen's disease, saints

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Visitors to Hawaii will have the opportunity to learn about the history of the state's Hansen's disease patients with a new center coming to Waikiki.

The Damien and Marianne of Molokai Education Center is scheduled to open in fall 2020, and will feature exhibits and presentations chronicling the history of Kalawao and Kalaupapa on Molokai, where people with the debilitating disease also known as leprosy were banished starting in 1866. Roman Catholic missionaries helped establish a functioning village on the isolated peninsula, and the center also tells the stories of two key figures who were later sainted for their work on Molokai, Father Damien De Veuster and Sister Marianne Cope. Today, a few remaining Hansen's patients remain in the village inside Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

The $6 million, two-story center will be located on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki and will include interactive exhibits, historic displays and artifacts, and video presentations. There will also be a reflection chapel; a meditation garden with plants from Molokai; and a gift shop selling hand-made items from Molokai artisans.

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