The Order of Malta is helping Tongan Catholics in Sydney to send a 40ft shipping container’s worth of love to Atatā island and other parts of Tonga, with essential supplies that are still needed after January’s volcano disaster.
A surge in COVID infections across the island nation is slowing recovery efforts. Rebuilding is expected to be slow and difficult after the eruption destroyed the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic island to the north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.
Everyone in Tonga has been affected by the subsequent tsunami and falling ash.
Daniel Kwok of the Order of Malta told The Catholic Weekly that it was only too happy to assist after hearing through Fr Aliki Langi SM that the Tongan Princess Angelika Latufuipeka Tuku’aho would welcome some support.
Fr Aliki, the assistant priest of Holy Name of Mary parish in Hunters Hill, is from the same village as the princess, who also serves as the High Commissioner of Tonga to Australia.
“Our order has been around for 900 years and we have a very strong charism of helping those who are in need, especially the poor and the sick, and emergency relief is one of the key activities,” Mr Kwok said, adding that members had responded well, raising $60,000 in total.
In the first instance, the Order has given $12,000 for the shipping costs of sending food, baby care products, and other essentials donated from the parish, Villa Maria Primary School, and St Vincent de Paul Society, while the Order itself donated sanitary supplies for women and babies, PPE equipment, rosaries and holy cards.
“We are very grateful to God at the beginning of this friendship between the Order of Malta and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga, and we will continue to offer any assistance needed,” Mr Kwok said.
We are very grateful to God at the beginning of this friendship between the Order of Malta and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga, and we will continue to offer any assistance needed.”
Fr Aliki said he was “thrilled” at the generous support of Sydney Catholics for the families on Atatā, which also included a fundraising dinner. “The princess reminded us of our Christian obligation to help, not only AtatĀ but the whole of Tonga,” he told a gathering of supporters with the princess in Sydney last weekend.
“What began in a very small way has extended and grown, just like the parable of the mustard seed, thanks to her initiative.”
Princess Angelika told The Catholic Weekly the royal family are very grateful to the Order of Malta and the other supporters for their help in providing the life-giving supplies.
“The main concern in Tonga currently is trying to control the COVID outbreak there, they are in their second week of lockdown, children are not able to go to school and the numbers keep climbing not only in the main island but outlying islands,” she said.
“It has slowed down things such as shipment of relief supplies going to those outer islands and when things do arrive, they need to be quarantined for 72 hours.
“The diaspora in New South Wales and throughout Australia are always very motivated to help and support people in Tonga.
“Everyone is interconnected in some way with families there and so we are able to coordinate the sending supplies to those outer more vulnerable islands that are affected by the disaster.”