New Plymouth family return to Tonga to help rebuild after Gita

Cyclone Gita rebuild

Veni Uhila watched television in New Plymouth and saw cyclone Gita destroy his Tonga home.

The builder had a sleepless night.

But he realised how bad things were in Tonga only when he got hold of his policeman cousin the next day.

So now Uhila and his sons Taani, 22, and Siaosi, 10, are pausing their New Zealand lives to go to Tonga to help their family rebuild.

“My plan is to go and just make sure it’s safe,” Uhila said. “We’re doing this from the good of our heart.”

Uhila grew up in the Tongan village of Lapaha.

It’s one of many that Gita largely destroyed.

He said as soon as he realised how widespread the destruction was he wanted to “give back” to his home.

He organised the trip with his sons.

He’s packed nine bags full of tools.

It’s costing $800 to take them over.

They plan to buy the materials they need to fix the homes in Tonga when they get there.

Uhila knows that building materials will be in short supply.

Since letting people know he was going to Tonga to help, many family and friends have asked for his skills.

Uhila says he can only do so much, ” It’s only me and my boys,” he says.

On this trip he says he’ll make temporary fixes.

He hopes to return with a container full of supplies.

New Plymouth’s St Pius X School community donated $1,000 to help the family with expenses.

Siaosi is a student at the school and Taani a former student.

Siaosi, 10, has minimal building experience but is anticipating the trip.

“We’re going to be travelling around the whole village and going to the most damaged houses,” he says.



News category: Asia Pacific.

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