WelCom March 2022
The New Zealand St Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) has swiftly responded to the devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga with two 20-foot containers of urgently needed materials.
The January eruption destroyed the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic island to the north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa. More than four-fifths of the Tongan population has been affected by the subsequent tsunami and falling ash.
SVDP immediately launched an appeal to its members to put together the material aid requested by the Society in Tonga, says Arthur Schultze, the Society’s liaison person with Tonga and Oceania. Under the Society’s ‘twinning’ arrangements, the Society in New Zealand is partnered with Tonga and provides support as a donor country.
Arthur said the biggest challenge initially was dealing with the volcanic ash, which has had a huge impact on the drinking water. ‘They have a deep spring from which they can draw bottled water and that’s being used full-on. Plus emergency water supplies have been brought in from the Australian and New Zealand Governments.’
A subsequent tropical storm however washed away much of the ash which had blanketed the islands of Tonga, bringing life back to the vegetation.
‘The need in Tonga is very great,’ says Arthur. ‘I am in regular contact with SVDP’s National President in Tonga, Sakapo Lolohea. There are many families who are coming to the main island Tongatapu from the outlying islands which have been worst hit. The Society in Tonga is supporting these displaced people, along with other agencies.’
Arthur Schultze said a real strength of the Society’s aid effort is that it is meeting needs identified by the Society on the ground in Tonga. Aid being provided includes water bottles, water filters, face masks, water blasters, protective eyewear, wheelbarrows, blankets, clothing, chainsaws, hoses, gloves, gumboots, safety boots and batteries. Some of the items being provided are not available in Tonga.
The first 20-ft container was loaded from the Society’s hub in Onehunga and was dispatched from Auckland direct to Nukualofa in mid-February. A second container-load in planned for mid-March.
‘We have a strong relationship with the Society in Tonga and I’m in regular contact with the Society’s President there,’ says Arthur. ‘They have a great crew on the ground in Tonga and the support being provided will make a real difference. It’s a very targeted approach. People responding to the appeal know exactly what their money is being spent on.’
The New Zealand National President, Terry Jordan, is delighted with the response from SVDP members all around New Zealand.
‘The strength of the Society is really evident in times like these. When the need is there, the Conferences step up and we have such a close relationship with Oceania. The need is right on our doorstep.’
Anyone wanting to donate to the St Vincent de Paul Tonga Tsunami Appeal can deposit their donation in the Society’s Appeals bank account: 02-0528-0208598-027 REF: Tonga Appeal