Tonga’s Speaker praises community for response to disaster

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

The Speaker of Tonga’s Parliament says it has been a great privilege to be a part of the reaction from the Tongan community diaspora in Aotearoa to the disaster in the Kingdom.

Lord Fakafanua was in Porirua, north of Wellington, for the ‘Ofa ki Tonga-Takanga ‘enau fohe – or Sending love to Tonga – event organised by Victoria University Te Herenga Waka and the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council.Victoria University Te Herenga Waka has donated $37,000 to the Wellington Tonga Leaders Council to support their relief effort for Tonga following the devastating eruption and tsunami.

Victoria University Te Herenga Waka has donated $37,000 to the Wellington Tonga Leaders Council to support their relief effort for Tonga following the devastating eruption and tsunami. Photo: RNZ Pacific

At the event, the University gifted the Council $37,000 to support their relief effort for Tonga following the devastating eruption and tsunami.

Lord Fakafanua accepted the donation on behalf of the Council.

He said to witness first hand the amount of support and the spirit of togetherness that people have for their kāinga back home is inspiring and very touching.Lord Fakafanua with members of the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council

Lord Fakafanua with members of the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council Photo: Wellington Tongan Leaders CouncilLord Fakafanua with the Tongan men who have been volunteering to load the containers destined for Tonga

Lord Fakafanua with the Tongan men who have been volunteering to load the containers destined for Tonga Photo: Wellington Tongan Leaders Council

“Very blessed to be invited to take part and also encourage a lot of the assistance that’s been co-ordinated from New Zealand,” he said.

He said private businesses and even some government organisations have really chipped in and helped our community to send much needed supplies back home.

“We are very blessed to have the support all the New Zealand people,” he said.Members of the Victoria University Pacific student body arrive at the 'Ofa ki Tonga-Takanga 'enau fohe

Members of the Victoria University Pacific student body arrive at the ‘Ofa ki Tonga-Takanga ‘enau fohe Photo: RNZ Pacific

Lord Fakafanua told those gathered that the rebuild work in Tonga will take a long time.

Victoria University’s Chancellor, John Allen, led representatives from the Victoria University to present the donation to the Council.

Mr Allen said the volcanic eruption was a huge event and many people read about the following tsunami, we were not isolated from it and it touched us.Members of Victoria University greeted by the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council

Members of Victoria University greeted by the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council Photo: RNZ PacificFrom (L-R) Victoria University's Chancellor John Allen, The Speaker of Tonga's Parliament Lord Fakafanua and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Associate Professor Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Victoria University of Wellington

From (L-R) Victoria University’s Chancellor John Allen, The Speaker of Tonga’s Parliament Lord Fakafanua and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Associate Professor Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Victoria University of Wellington Photo: RNZ Pacific

“In the case of our University community, we have 181 Tongan students currently studying with us, we have had heaps of Tongan students over many years at the University, so we have deep ties with the Tongan community.

“And we simply want to to stand with them in their time of need, we want to provide the support we can to help them support each other and this is a marvellous opportunity because what it is doing is enabling families here to support families at home,” he said.Members of Victoria University Te Herenga Waka and the Wellington Tonga Leaders Council. The University donated $37,000 to help the Council send containers to families in Tonga

Members of Victoria University Te Herenga Waka and the Wellington Tonga Leaders Council. The University donated $37,000 to help the Council send containers to families in Tonga Photo: RNZ Pacific

The university’s charitable trust, the Victoria University of Wellington Foundationprovided support to co-ordinate additional cash donations from the university community.

For Tongan academic, Dr Mele Tupou-Vaitohi of Victoria University, they had not anticipated the amount donated and are very thankful that people opened their hearts, and their wallets to donate and help our Tongan community here, and our families in Tonga.Tongiaepau Nuku, Dr Mele Tupou-Vaitohi and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban

Tongiaepau Nuku, Dr Mele Tupou-Vaitohi and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban Photo: RNZ Pacific

“I want to wish everyone the best for their “Ofa (Love) for Tonga.”

She said they are also thankful to the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council who have been working closely with the University.

“We are working in partnership, and to actually see what we are seeing today is a result and an outcome of that partnership.”

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