Mark Zuckerberg saves Hawaii? How the Facebook mogul and wife Priscilla Chan poured millions into a jobs programme in Kauai where they own a controversial US$100 million compound

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg own a controversial US$100 million compound in Hawaii, but now they’re donating in support of Hawaiian jobs. Photos: @zuck; @gohawaii/Instagram

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are pouring US$4.2 million into a jobs programme for residents of the Hawaiian county where they own a controversial US$100 million compound. 

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Photo: @zuck/Instagram

Called the Rise to Work programme, the initiative was created in 2020 for residents of the county of Kauai who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. But the programme was funded by the initial economic stimulus bill last year and the funding expired this past December. Now, the programme is being revived thanks to Zuckerberg and Chan’s donation. 

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said in a statement that he had shared with the Chan-Zuckerberg team how successful the previous iteration of the programme had been, and it eventually led to a donation from the couple. 

Hawaii, funds incoming. Photo: @gohawaii/Instagram

“Through Priscilla’s and Mark’s generous donation of US$4.2 million to the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Rise to Work programme lives again – offering purpose and hope to people who are struggling,” Kawakami said. 

Applications for the programme opened on Monday (March 8). The programme can support up to 400 workers – those who are selected will be placed in temporary jobs and will receive weekly pay and free health insurance. The programme also helps local businesses, the county says, because it allows them to increase capacity without adding to their payroll costs. 

“Our family cares deeply about Kauai, and we are pleased to support this valuable programme that has far-reaching positive effects in a community we love,” Chan said in a statement. 

Kauai, Hawaii, the US. Photo: Unsplash

Zuckerberg and Chan have been residents of Kauai since 2014, when they bought a 750-acre compound on Kauai’s North Shore. They paid a reported US$100 million for two separate properties: a 357-acre (144-hectare) former sugar cane plantation called Kahu’aina Plantation, and a 393-acre parcel called Pila’a Beach.

While the couple and their two daughters are typically based in Palo Alto, California, near Facebook’s headquarters, it appears they’ve been spending time at their Hawaii home throughout the pandemic.


They were seen on the island in June – government officials confirmed the family followed the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine at the time – and Zuckerberg was spotted in July riding a US$12,000 electric surfboard while covered in so much sunscreen he became a meme. He was photographed again in December, albeit this time with less visible sunscreen.

In April, Zuckerberg and Chan committed US$1 million to Kauai to help the region battle the coronavirus. 

But the couple’s presence on the island has been controversial in the past. In 2016, Zuckerberg angered neighbours by constructing a 1.8-metre wall around his property with the intention of reducing highway and road noise.

Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: @zuck/Instagram

One year later, Zuckerberg filed suit against Hawaiian families who had legal-ownership claims on parcels of land within his property. Zuckerberg said at the time on his Facebook page that he filed the suit to “make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too”, but the move prompted backlash from residents who described the move as “neocolonialism”. 

Zuckerberg later dropped the suit, saying that he and Chan wanted to “make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.” The parcels were later auctioned off, with three out of four being sold to a bidder who was reportedly backed by Zuckerberg.

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
  • The couple’s US$100 million compound on Kauai’s North Shore – and 1.8 metre wall around the property – has long caused controversy
  • But their donation to the Hawaii Community Foundation will support up to 400 workers with temporary jobs, a weekly salary and free health insurance