The Bundaberg Region community is banding together to support disaster relief efforts for Tonga after a volcanic eruption and tsunami devastated the country last month.
Organisations and businesses have been offering their support to the newly established Tonga Appeal, a fundraising initiative by Bundaberg Regional Council and Shalom College led by the local Tongan community.
NRL legend and local teacher Antonio Kaufusi approached Council with the idea of the appeal when he was trying to find a way to support his family members impacted by the emergency event.
The fundraising was kick-started by a $10,000 donation from Council, and through its weekly markets, Shalom College also donated $2000.
It has now reached more than $19,000 thanks to the help of locals.
Recently, The Catholic Parish of Bundaberg donated $2000 towards the cause after hosting a garage sale filled with furniture.
Father Peter Tonti said the pre-planned event had transformed into a fundraiser when the church community heard about how the emergency had impacted some of their own.
“The Kaufusi's are part of the lovely Tongan family who are parishioners at our church and we really wanted to help them in their cause for supporting the Tonga Appeal,” he said.
“We decided that the profits made from the furniture sale would go towards the charity.”
Six furniture items including tallboys and dressers were sold, allowing the church to contribute funds to the appeal.
Fr Peter said he was proud to be involved in supporting a great cause.
“That's what we are here for and that is part of our mission, to assist wherever and to whoever requires it,” he said.
Local businesses have also have joined in on the fundraising efforts including The Lighthouse Hotel, who have donated $1000 towards the appeal.
Manager Gavin Hales said through their weekly Burnett Heads raffles, organised by volunteers Ken Graham and Deb Mason, patrons had raised the funds.
“It's really the support from the locals that has made this possible,” he said.
“To be part of a community that is always so willing to give back to others is mind-blowing, it's amazing.
“The raffles are held every week with help from Ken and Deb and have evolved to raise enough money for not only the local area, but also a wider target which is fantastic.”
Community groups offer assistance to support Tonga
Community groups have jumped on board to assist Tonga, with many donating items or raising funds on their own accord.
Local Rotary clubs recently joined forces to gather more than 100 pieces of fishing equipment, including items such as spinning reels and tackle boxes, that will soon be sea freighted to the island.
Local Rotarian Phil Saxby said much of the tackle and some of the rod-reel combinations were brand new, and he thanked those who supported the cause.
Bundaberg Quilters Inc members are also busy raising funds for the victims of Tonga through the raffle of a quilt.
The raffle is being combined with the sale of handmade turtle toys to be available for sale at Woolworths Bargara tomorrow.
For more information head to the Bundaberg Quilters Inc Facebook page here.
Mayor thanks community for support
Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey has thanked locals for their support of the Tonga Appeal.
He said with the current funding now reaching almost $20,000, money would begin to be filtered through to the country.
“While we are not yet at our fundraising goal, we will be sending the funding that we have so far to the Tongan community so they can work on getting their lives back to normality,” he said.
“The devastation was major and will have an impact on the community for some time, however, we are hoping to be able to assist them in rebuilding by donating the funds that we have, as soon as possible.
“Thank you to all of those residents, organisations and businesses who have helped thus far. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.”
How to donate to support Tonga Appeal:
Account name: Shalom College
BSB: 034 210
Account Number: 831 772
Reference: TONGA APPEAL
Or by visiting Shalom College or phoning the finance officer on 4155 8111.