Following the recent devastating volcanic eruption in Tonga, a cry for help was answered by Macarthur school communities who joined together with St John the Evangelist Catholic Parish, Campbelltown and the local Tongan community to support the people of the small Pacific island.
On 15 January 2022, a huge underwater volcano erupted, covering Tonga in thick volcanic ash and causing a tsunami which flooded the northern side of the main island, leaving the people in desperate need of support from the international community.
In early February, the Tongan community of Campbelltown approached Father Feleki Tautunu - Assistant Priest at St John's - asking for assistance to raise funds for the purchase of two ship containers and the donation of items to support the basic needs of the Tongan people.
St John the Evangelist, Campbelltown; Mary Immaculate, Eaglevale; Holy Family Primary School, Ingleburn and Mt Carmel Catholic College, Varroville, took up the request for help, providing generous donations of school furniture, food and household items to be assembled as “Care Packages” for the Tongan schools.
Over the past few months Father Feleki has been kept busy visiting schools, speaking with students and collecting the much needed donations.
“When I spoke with the students, I asked them to reflect on why Australia is a great country, and their responses included that it is a peaceful country with a beautiful environment and many opportunities,” said Father Feleki.
“I believe it is a most generous country of people always ready to reach out to help those in need, in Australia and around the world” — Father Feleki, Assistant Priest, St John the Evangelist Catholic Parish, Campbelltown
For students, Lowana and Payton - members of the St John’s Mini Vinnie’s team - the appeal was an opportunity to show the Tongan community they were not alone.
“We’re very fortunate to have everything we need, and felt that being involved in the collection of items for the Tongan Appeal was a worthy way to show the Tongan community that we care.
“As a school community we can come together to collect as many items to send them in their time of need. We just wanted to be able to help them.”
Mr Solo Anapu from the Campbelltown Tongan community was delighted in the support shown for the appeal. “It has been great to see so many people volunteer to help the people of Tonga,’ he said. “Without the volunteers and generous donation, the appeal would not have been so successful.”
Each school involved in the appeal will also send a plaque with a blessing and an item, such as a school candle, as a memorial of their support for the appeal.
Mrs Trish Coffey, a teacher at St John’s Campbelltown and one of the appeal organisers, was delighted with the response from the schools involved. “It has been a wonderful community project and the response has been amazing,” she said. “The two containers are nearly full with the donations from the Tongan, parish and school communities.”