Lions provide disaster relief
Immediately after the disaster, emergency aid was forthcoming from around the world providing urgently needed supplies such as food and shelter as well as bottled water. Help was also forthcoming to repair the power supply to the affected areas. 202K District Governor Christine Ford was monitoring the position closely but as there were quite a number of organisations available to deliver emergency supplies and logistics were difficult, the decision was made to hold off and then move in with help in the reconstruction area. The Tongan Lions Clubs are in the southern group of Tongatapu (Nuku’alofa) and the northern group of Vava’u. Both are nearly 200km away and transport between islands is very limited.
Two members of the Vava’u Lions Club made a visit to the Ha’apai Group in February and looked at several islands to assess their needs. They identified the island of Uiha and the village of Felemea (population about 200) as being in greatest need of help, with the provision of emergency clean water for drinking and cooking being the greatest priority. Uiha is about 40 minutes’ boat trip from the main town of Pangai on the island of Lifuka and rises to about 30 metres above sea level. Most of their buildings were severely damaged in the cyclone and their crops were wiped out - it will take at least six months for these to come back into production.
At the request of District 202K, Auckland Lion Roger Robinson made a six-day visit to Tonga, of which three days were spent on Uiha with the purpose of coming up with a viable project to address the need for clean water. He was accompanied on this trip by Vava’u Lions President Viliami A’feaki who had made the earlier trip.
They identified two urgent needs. Firstly, to a very elderly couple whose tank and water supply were no longer functioning and they were having to carry their daily needs about 50 metres from a Red Cross supply. They need a 10,000 tank and new guttering. Secondly, the community needs a back-up supply to see them through the dry season and also in the event of emergencies.
They identified an area of ground where three 10,000-litre water tanks can be constructed, covered by an open-walled structure of about 6m x 9m which will provide the catchment roof area to feed into the tanks. The floor of the structure will be concreted and double up as a community meeting place.
A fundraising target of $50,000 has been set to complete the project. Any funds left over will be directed to supporting the local school, which was also badly damaged in the cyclone. The people on the island have very little money and basically live off the land and what they catch in the sea. Clean drinking water is essential and the Lions project will certainly be of benefit to the village and the people.
The Lions Club of Buckland’s Beach has agreed to take the lead role in this project. The Tongan Clubs of Vava’u Lahi and Nuku’alofa are the newest clubs in District 202K, having been formed in the last 12 months. While they are in full support of this project they do not have any project money available or the experience to co-ordinate such a major project. Accordingly they are relying upon the generosity of the New Zealand Lions Clubs to ensure the project happens.
Donations are welcome. Please send cheques to Buckland’s Beach Lions Club - Tongan Project, P O Box 39 225, Howick, Auckland 2145.