Loto’i Tonga, the heart of a Tongan, coming together in unity and as a family

Tongan families in Porirua, the Hutt Valley and Wellington city have been packing barrels with water, tinned food, flour and other supplies to send to their families in the islands, following the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami in mid-January.

The Wellington Tonga Leaders' Council sourced two 40ft containers to carry these much needed essentials back to the Kingdom of Tonga.

The General Manager of the Council, Tae Moala-Mafi Tu'inukuafe, said the support towards the Tongan community has been overwhelming.

"We have been supported by the Porirua City Council, Taeaomanino Trust, Whanau Manaaki Kindergarten, and Victoria University, which has been amazing, led by Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban."

This support has enabled the Council to allow Tongan families to ship their supply barrels for free, on the 2 containers.

Ms Tu'inukuafe had a mesage of hope for Tongan families back in the Kingdom:

"Even though we do not have much to give you and the disasters and the terrible experience you went through, this is a small token of love and we are hoping this will give you a little bit of hope. I know you are really resilient and we love you, we are praying for you. There is never a day that goes by that we do not think of you and praying for you.

Edna 'Ungatea Havea, Secretary of the Wellington Tonga Leaders' Council, explained that families would be able to arrive with their barrels from Tuesday at 5pm. When her team arrived - some families were already there and had been waiting since 3pm

The Council allocated different days for the Tongan community in the Wellington region, to drop off their supply barrels.

Tuesday and Wednesday were given to Porirua families while Thursday and Friday were for the families in the Hutt Valley and Saturday for Wellington.

Ms Havea said she also had families in Whanganui and Levin asking if they could send supplies home in these containers. She said that they cannot turn away anyone wanting to send supplies, because Tongans are all part of one big family. Havea also said that one container is already full and the other is half-full.

"We knew that it was going to be this many coming in - so we have sourced another two 40 feet containers to come from Auckland next week.

The supply barrels have been organised into a list, which will ensure that they are distributed to the right families in Tonga. As the list was checked so too were vaccine passes, to ensure everyone's safety from Covid-19, when dropping off and loading.

She said the Tongan community is thankful to not only the New Zealand government but every person in Aotearoa who has sent lovely messages of support or has made a donation.

"I am very proud to be Tongan and contribute towards the organising of this relief drive," said Ms Sina.

Since the collection started in Wellington Reverend Simote Taunga and his wife 'Akesa have been providing spiritual support to the volunteers and the families who come along. A prayer is held before any work begins and a prayer is said at the end.

Reverend Taunga, of the Methodist church in Wellington, said the families he spoke to are very happy about being able to send supplies back to Tonga. Many families, who are facing economic hardships here in Aotearoa, had contributed supplies to this relief effort.

"I want to thank the Tongan families in Wellington for their effort and their willingness to send these items back home."