A number of groups in Aotearoa are offering a helping hand to Tonga following the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami, but where is the best place to direct your donations? Sela Jane Hopgood rounds up some legit options.
This is one of the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades. It’s estimated that up to 80,000 people have been affected by the latest catastrophe, with the full extent of damage and need yet to be determined.
Lord Fatafehi Fakafānua, the speaker of the legislative assembly of Tonga, released a statement explaining that what Tonga needs immediately is to provide its citizens with fresh drinking water and food. “More details on Tonga’s official disaster relief fund will be announced shortly, so that those looking to help can contribute directly to Tonga’s relief efforts,” he said.
He added that “to ensure the help kindly offered reaches those in need, we must ensure relief funds are verified, transparent and legitimate”. This is important to note, as there has been talk online of people claiming they’re raising funds for Tonga’s relief, yet providing no evidence or transparency as to where the money is going.
The Council for International Development (CID) is the umbrella organisation for Aotearoa’s aid charities and all its full members are code compliant, which means the public can be reassured that donations will reach the most vulnerable communities.
CID says that if New Zealanders want to help, the most effective response is to donate money rather than send stuff that may not be needed. “During previous Pacific emergencies, local businesses desperate for customers were undercut by donated overseas goods, many that were still available locally. These containers took up valuable wharf space, blocked vital humanitarian supplies coming through and in many cases, stuff not needed ended up in landfill,” CID spokesperson said.
According to the Australian Red Cross, it takes 10 people 70+ hours to sort through a container of unrequested goods, and they’re urging people to donate responsibly.
There are some great initiatives under way. Here’s where you can help out Tonga:
Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee
Led by Labour MPs Jenny Salesa and ‘Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, who are of Tongan descent, the committee consists of community leaders in Auckland who inform families in Aotearoa what Tonga needs, such as bottles of water, then collect and put in containers to ship over.
Kanongata’a-Suisuiki told The Spinoff that they’re currently waiting for a response from Tonga regarding what items are required, as well as finding avenues to have the containers transported to Tonga. “Our role is to provide opportunities for families here to send goods to their loved ones. We do accept monetary funds as well, in case people don’t want to buy items to donate.
For updates, head to the Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee Facebook page.
New Zealand Red Cross/Tonga Red Cross Society
The non-governmental organisation aims to prevent and alleviate human suffering in Tonga. One of its main focuses is on disaster management and it supports communities throughout Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u, ‘Eua and Niuas.
Donations will go towards providing access to safe and clean drinking water, as much of Tonga’s drinking water has been contaminated by saltwater inundation caused by tsunami waves and ashfall from the eruption. Shelter is also a concern, particularly for those communities near the coast line.
Tonga Red Cross teams are on the ground supporting evacuations, providing first aid if needed and distributing prepositioned (procured locally) relief supplies such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits for immediate need.
Donate to the Pacific Tsunami Appeal via Rīpeka Whero Aotearoa.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
The Catholic agency for justice, peace and development has offered an immediate Solidarity Grant to Caritas Tonga and is also receiving donations, through its Pacific Relief Fund, to help with the aftermath of the natural disasters in Tonga.
Caritas Aotearoa NZ managed to get in touch with Caritas Tonga on Saturday and together they completed the prepositioning of emergency supplies at three locations in Tonga.
Donations can be made to Caritas online through the Pacific Relief Fund.
Australian-based Olympic athlete and Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua, who started a Go Fund Me the day after the volcanic eruption and tsunami, says his focus is on what he can do from his current position. “That’s awareness and assistance. My focus is on the people of Tonga who will all need help to rebuild,” said Taufatofua.
“My father is the governor of Ha’apai, but he’s currently in Tongatapu and at this stage I haven’t heard from him, so in the meantime, I’m preparing for assistance for my country.”
Taufatofua aims to use the funds raised to address damage to critical infrastructure, schools and hospitals. He wants the donations to go towards those most in need.
So far, Taufatofua has raised over AU$300,000 (NZ$318,000) with a goal of reaching one million dollars. To donate, visit Tonga Tsunami relief by Pita Taufatofua.
Former All Black Malakai Fekitoa, born and raised in Ha’apai and now living in England, has also started a Go Fund Me page to help his people back home.
In 12 hours, Fekitoa was able to raise over £8,000, (around NZ$16,000), with a goal of £50,000 to reach.
Fekitoa says he hasn’t had any communication with his mother in the last 24 hours and wants the donations collected to be used for aid such as material products for housing for vulnerable families.
To join Fekitoa’s fundraiser campaign, head to the Help Tonga, all of Tonga page.
Friends of Tonga
Friends of Tonga, a charitable non-profit organisation that promotes and provides access to education, literacy and development opportunities across the Kingdom, is an affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) of the United States.
Friends of Tonga’s Facebook page shared an update that all peace corps staff in Tonga have been accounted for and are all safe. They’ve set up a Hunga-Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruptions and tsunami disaster relief page on their website and are seeking donations, and will partner with organisations on the ground to figure out where best to distribute funds.
Tearfund New Zealand
A Christian non-profit organisation have outlined online how people can help with immediate relief for our Pacific neighbours in Tonga, for example donating $50 can provide a family with an emergency food ration and donating $70 can give clean drinking water to a family for a month.
Tearfund has established partners in Tonga who have responded to recent disasters and are well-positioned to respond to those in need.
To donate funds for affected Tongan communities, visit Tonga volcano emergency appeal.
This is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.