The eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai and the subsequent 1.5m tsunami on January 15, 2022, caused shockwaves around the world. Co-chairs of the Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee, Hon. Jenny Salesa MP and ’Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, have been coordinating aid for Tonga, but there’s still so much more to do.
It is still too early to tell how many families have been affected. Entire villages were wiped out; homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Whole islands have been evacuated to Tongatapu, which has meant uprooting families and children from the only homes they have ever known with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Since the disasters struck, the Tongan community have pulled together to do what they do best: supporting their relatives and homeland. At the forefront of the Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee is a team of women who are working hard to send supplies home, focusing on groceries, non-perishable foods and water. Around two-thirds of the Executive Committee are women, and when they open for families to pack family-to-family care packages, most who arrive with relief supplies are women.
“This is nothing new to us, as we have a saying in Tonga, ‘ko e ’apí ’a fafine’ – ‘the home is women’s territory’,” Hon. Jenny Salesa says.
Unsurprisingly, many people, particularly women and children, have been severely traumatised by these events. Support for Talitha Project, an NGO providing trauma counselling, is also needed. The devastation wreaked by these disasters is untenable. “Our people are resilient, made stronger by our deep sense of identity and faith,” Jenny says. “We will build back stronger. We are grateful for the aroha, manaakitanga and whanaungatanga of families and friends here in Aotearoa and around the world.”
How you can help
Assistance is needed for families in Tonga, Ha’apai and ‘Eua, who have lost everything. If you are able to provide support to our most vulnerable families in Tonga, please contact Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee via facebook.com/AotearoaTonga for further advice on how you can contribute.