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Smiling faces . . . Lei'ataua Tahaafe stands with villagers wearing shirts donated by the Awamoa Football Club. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Dr Peter Rodwell and Lei’ataua Tahaafe are on a mission to help others.

Dr Peter Rodwell (left) and Mr Tahaafe. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

The Oamaru men are determined to make a difference to people recovering from Cyclone Gita, which struck Tonga earlier this year.

Dr Rodwell and other members of the North Otago community have set up the Pasifika Safe Shelter Trust to help those affected by the cyclone in Tonga and Samoa.

The trust has donated about $200,000 worth of surplus new medical supplies, which have been sent to Vaiola Hospital in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

In the coming months, Dr Rodwell will fly to the country to help with the relief effort.

Joining him will be Mr Tahaafe and Dr Rodwell’s son, Simon, who is a qualified engineer.

The men hope to build between 50 and 100 shelters for people struggling to find clean, safe housing.

“We’re working with the local people – our aim is to work in partnership with the people, not build it for them,” Dr Rodwell said.

“It’s their home – they need to own it.”

In about a week’s time, he will fly to Tonga for a “scoping” exercise, and will speak to the Tongan Government to determine what work needs to be done.

“We work with them, with the Government, and see what we can achieve.

“We’ll have a much better idea of what we can do,” Dr Rodwell said.

The building project itself would start in April, Dr Rodwell said.

Mr Tahaafe, who is originally from Tonga, has spent several months filling two shipping containers with supplies to help with the relief effort.

Several weeks ago, he travelled to his former homeland, where he built three houses out of some of the materials from the container.

Since the shelter trust was established, it had received a large amount of support from the Oamaru community, Mr Tahaafe said.

“We’ve probably got a significant part of the Tongan community behind this, and we’re starting now to get the general Waitaki community behind this.”

It was hoped $500,000 could be raised before the building project started.