As governments and aid agencies around the world gathered themselves to respond to the plight of Tongans reeling from the devastating Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami, a Swinburne University of Technology Lecturer in Education was already busily raising desperately needed funds.
As well as being overwhelmingly concerned for her extended family members in Tonga, Dr Maryanne Pale was moved to find a way to support the relief and recovery efforts.
“While I have extended family members in Tonga, I can’t help but also think of the vulnerable women and children. My heart also goes out to them, and I just want to offer my help,” said Dr Pale.
Using her platform as a Swinburne academic, Dr Pale has set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign in support of Tongan NGO, Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC).
The effort is off to a strong start too, raising $3,610 of its $10,000 goal in the first 8 days since it launched. Dr Pale is hopeful the support will only strengthen the initial response by WCCC.
Dr Pale, who knows the organisation's founder, ‘Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, wants to ensure the WCCC are receiving direct funding for their empowering humanitarian work.
“The WCCC provides counselling, refuge and advocacy for vulnerable women and children in Tonga. In the current devastation in Tonga, they will require immediate response to their trauma and their needs,” said Dr Pale.
How The WCCC is helping
Since the Tsunami’s devastating impact, WCCC has started rolling out support to women and children in the worst hit areas - Kanokupolu, Sopu and Patangata - and are looking to also offer support in Ha'apai once travel is allowed.
While Tonga now prepares for a two-day lockdown following the emergence of two community cases of COVID-19, as essential workers the WCCC will continue to supply aid to those in need.
“‘Ofa has advised today that WCCC has provided psychosocial support directly to 104 women since the volcanic eruption and tsunami. The support involves sending three teams on direct home visits where a small pack of food, hygiene packs and water are provided for women and children. The psychosocial support consists of a private and safe talanoa (conversation/discussion) between WCCC counsellors and the women which is centered around their current state of emotional, physical and mental wellbeing,” said Dr Pale
Of the women treated so far, ‘Ofa has informed Dr Pale that 95% have children in their care; 92% had not received counselling support prior to WCCC’s home visit; 88% indicated that their children were having trouble sleeping and are still showing signs of fear and unsettled behaviour; and 98% of women stated that the psychosocial support is much needed and that the safe talanoa is crucial during this time of crisis.
“All donations to Tonga’s WCCC will support the work that they are currently implementing on the ground. WCCC aims to reach another 150 women this week and they will be extending their support to Ahau and Ha’atafu, as well as women who have been displaced with their families from Mango island and ‘Atatā island who are currently seeking refuge on Tongatapu. ‘Ofa and the staff at WCCC are grateful to all, including Swinburne University of Technology, for the support received thus far. They are appreciative of everyone’s kindness and compassion during this time of devastation,” said Dr Pale.
If you’d like to support the WCCC you can click below to view the GoFundMe page.