A North Otago group has arrived home after installing vital infrastructure services in three villages in Tonga.
In late July, North Otago Tonga Engagement (Note) travelled to the Pacific nation after it reached a fundraising goal of $25,000 to carry out its Hihifo Rainwater Harvesting Project in the villages of Ha’atafu, Kanukupolu and Ahau, work which was completed early this month.
Note aims to promote closer relationships between Waitaki’s Tongan and Palagi population.
Reverend Jill McDonald, of Note, said six tanks were installed in total – two in each of the three villages – with the help of locals who will use the tanks.
Despite some challenges along the way, such as concrete that was to be used to build pads for the tanks being snapped up by someone else and the next shipment of concrete not being due in the country for another two weeks, the group got the job done.
Waitaki Tongan Community president Talanoa Palu’s local connections came in handy.
However, the trip was not all about hard work.
The group of 18, made up of both Palagi and Tongan people, enjoyed feasts and church services with villagers, among other activities.
“We really got to know each other really well and the relationships we have built with the Tongan people is great,” Rev McDonald said.
Mrs Palu said the fundraising activities for the trip and the trip itself had “definitely” gone a long way towards building stronger relationships between the district’s Palagi and Tongan communities.
Oamaru man Ron Meldrum, who also travelled to Tonga with the group, said he hoped the spirit showed during the trip would continue.
“I hope when we all get home we will carry on our relationships. I’m sure they will and I appreciate much more what Tongan people have.”
Pua Vaitohi, a member of Oamaru’s Tongan community, said villagers were hugely appreciative of the work, even though they struggled to expressed that themselves.
“Some of the older people said they wished they could say in English that they would like to express how they were feeling and the appreciation they had for the aid and how special it was.”
Rev McDonald said Note had other projects planned for the future, but she doubted the group would travel to Tonga every year.