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Community comes together for Tonga Appeal

tonga appeal
The Tonga Appeal has been kickstarted with a $10,000 donation from Council

A community collaboration to launch the Tonga Appeal for those impacted by last month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami has been kick started by a $10,000 donation from Bundaberg Regional Council.

Through its weekly markets, Shalom College has also donated $2000 to the appeal.

The local Tongan community, together with Council and Shalom College, is encouraging residents to join forces and raise the much-needed funds.

Mayor Jack Dempsey said it was a good start but much more assistance was needed.

“The country has been devastated by the volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami, families have been separated and now they are dealing with an escalating COVID outbreak,” Mayor Dempsey said.

“Our South Pacific Island neighbours need our support.

“We already have strong ties with this region and our assistance now, at their greatest time of need, will only further strengthen this relationship.”

He said there was no doubt the local community had the spirit and the resources to fundraise but working together was key.

“I am so encouraged to see the level of community support already coming to the fore, we truly are the most caring community.

“But taking a coordinated approach will achieve the best outcome going forward.”

Local NRL legend and Shalom College teacher Antonio Kaufusi approached Council with the idea to hold a Tonga Appeal when he was trying to find a way to support his family members impacted by the volcano and tsunami.

tonga appeal donation
Pelenatita and Antonio Kaufusi at Shalom College

His cousin Father Ekuasi Manu is principal of Api Fo’ou Catholic College in Tonga’s capital.

While the school building itself was spared from major damage, ash and water entered classrooms and tsunami waves crashed onto the school grounds.

Fr Ekuasi said the school’s 1300 students, the majority of which come from low-income families, were part of the clean-up effort.

“It took us two weeks to clean the ashes from rooftops and roads,” Fr Ekuasi said.

“We were able to coordinate these cleaning up campaigns with teachers, ex-students, and parents.”

He said the community was grateful to hear of the Bundaberg Region’s support.

Mayor Dempsey said he understood there was a need for food and physical items but financial support would provide immediate aid.

“We’ve liaised with DFAT and other NGOs looking at timing, transportation and logistics and the best way to get the Tongan community the assistance they need when they need it is to send funds as soon as we can,” Mayor Dempsey said.

“We’re still committed to offering longer term support but in the short term let’s come together and provide immediate relief for the school, the village and the wider community.

“The money we raise will go direct to Api Fo’ou Catholic College to be distributed to the community and it won’t be tied up and filtered through administration and logistical costs.”

Shalom College has elected to act as the collection point for funds which they can then distribute school to school.

Principal Dan McMahon said his school had links with the Tongan community and assisting with the fundraiser was a way they could reach out.

“We have students and their families with relatives still in Tonga and dealing with the aftermath,” Mr McMahon said.

“Schools over there – like here often in small communities – they’re the spokes of the community.

“We’re hoping, in supporting a school with the things they need, it will also support those families who are there and the community in which it is based.

“We are trying to get a way to give the aid that people will generously give to the people that will need it most.”

tonga appeal donation
Members of the Kaufusi family at Shalom College

How to donate:

Account name: Shalom College
BSB: 034 210
Account Number: 831 772

Or by visiting Shalom College or phoning their Finance Officer on (07) 4155 8111.

To find out more head to the website here.

Other stories: Antonio Kaufusi shares NRL tips with Bundaberg Now