“I want to thank Australia for their support during the eruption and tsunami”: A message from our local partner in Tonga

A moment of peace…

Last week, I had the honour of sitting face to face with some of the leading voices and changemakers tackling climate displacement in the Pacific.

Words by Emma, Act for Peace team

I want to thank Australia”, he began, “for their support during the eruption and during the tsunami.

 It’s been 6 months now, and we are almost back to normal.

As he addressed the table, Reverend Ikani Tolu, General Secretary of our local partner, the Tongan National Council of Churches, looked to the Act for Peace staff in the room.

We owe the world who immediately responded to the new disaster that our people faced at the beginning of the year, with the many prayers, we survived, and on behalf of our people, I say thank you. Malo ‘aupito.

A collective hush fell over the table as we took in his words.

Words carrying the weight of a small nation that, earlier this year, was devastated by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption.

Reverend Ikani Tolu directly thanked Act for Peace supporters for helping our Tongan neighbours during their time of crisis earlier this year. Act for Peace
Satellite image of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha‘apai volcano eruption in January 2022. RAMMB/NOAA/NESDIS HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

It’s hard to forget those satellite images that flashed across our news – one of the most powerful eruptions observed in the modern era. So strong it sent atmospheric shock waves, sonic booms, and tsunami waves around the world, even reaching space.

But it was the communities of Tonga, at least 84,000 affected people, who bore the brunt of its impact.

In this time of crisis, the Act for Peace community raised over $94,000 to help our partner in Tonga, to assist communities living with the physical devastation, food insecurity, and trauma caused by this disaster.

The emergency response led by our partner, with the support of USAID, is providing critical physical and emotional assistance to 18 communities in Tonga, while leaving them with increased resilience and capacity to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters.

As a result of climate change, communities in Tonga are increasingly exposed to disaster events like cyclones, earthquakes and flooding. Tom Keating / Act for Peace

Rationally, I knew our help was making a difference.

But now, sitting at a table in our Sydney office opposite Reverend Ikani, and other church leaders from the Pacific Islands, I could feel what that support really meant.

I’m sharing this because, like me, it’s rare you get to hear this kind of feedback so directly.

A reality of working together with partners around the world is that most of the time, our communication is through emails, texts and calls.

I hope Reverand Ikani’s words remind you of the humans at the centre of our work, and the real impact your support is making.

Act for Peace and NCCA staff meet with church leaders from our partners in the Pacific Islands. Act for Peace

It was an honour to meet Reverend Ikani, and a number of church leaders from the Pacific Islands, including Rev James Bhagwan and his colleagues from the Pacific Council of Churches. This group of courageous individuals are leading important conversations and action to help tackle climate-driven displacement in their region.

Thank you for showing our neighbours compassion in their time of need.

While challenges lie ahead, we’ll continue to stand by them as allies, working together to ensure communities in the Pacific have a safe place to belong for years to come.

Take care,

Emma – Act for Peace team

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