The Bundaberg Region Tonga Appeal raised almost $40,000, helping with immediate relief and recovery and paving the way for a project to increase future resilience.
The appeal came to a close earlier this month but not before generous donors helped to raise $38,706.55.
Local teacher and former NRL star Antonio Kaufusi, who was behind the appeal’s launch, said the funds had helped to boost morale, ease burdens and provide basic supplies.
But they’ll also have a long-lasting positive impact on the community.
“I know Api Fo'ou Catholic College is putting the funds towards their solar panel project to be able to power the school and be self-sufficient in times when the power gets shut off, so the school will be able to remain open and running,” Antonio said.
“The contributions to the village where every family, which was about 130 plus, received $100 each … will help with food, high electricity bills etc.
“Money was also spent on building materials to help with families that had damage to their homes from the volcano eruption.”
He said his family had been humbled by the region’s support.
“My parents moved us here to Bundaberg back in 1998 and since then Bundaberg has been our home,” Antonio said.
“I already know how much the people here support each other, especially those that need the help, as I have experienced that firsthand through sporting groups, church groups, schools and various other groups like the Rotary Club.
“We as a family are very grateful for the love and support of everyone in Bundaberg.
“Words can't express our gratitude from what the Bundaberg community has shown us with this appeal.”
The Kaufusi family has been inundated with messages of thanks from the villagers as well as family throughout the world.
The Tonga Appeal was made possible through the support of Bundaberg Regional Council, which donated $10,000, and Shalom College which administered the trust and donated $2000.
Acting Mayor Bill Trevor said, in true Bundaberg Region style, the outcome had exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“The generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me,” Acting Mayor Trevor said.
“I’m thrilled to hear that not only have these funds assisted with the community’s immediate needs but will also provide ongoing support and resilience to the community through the school’s solar panel project.
“Reliable access to power will be invaluable to the school in future outages and the solar power will reduce the operational costs for years to come.”
Shalom principal Dan McMahon said he was pleased with the fundraising efforts.
“I expect that this will make a big difference to families who were devastated by natural disaster,” Mr McMahon said.
“Shalom was very pleased to be able to assist in this effort and it is an expression of our support for Tongan families who have contributed so positively to Bundaberg and the Shalom community.”