Business Council networks work together for Tonga schools

The inaugural New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC) Business Mission has been deemed a  success with a 30-member delegation travelling to Tonga to showcase the New Zealand-Tonga business engagement and identify specific commercial and development opportunities for the delegates representing a range of industries from tourism, education, renewable energy and infrastructure development.

Some of the school resources bound to Tonga from New Zealand.
Some of the school resources bound to Tonga from New Zealand.

But there’s another side to the work done by the NZTBC that is largely unseen but is equally as valuable as their work with major companies and business.

The NZTBC set up in 2010, has a range of business and community networks. It was those NZTBC networks that assisted Ligi Huka, an Administrator from Auckland’s Glendowie College find the right contact In New Zealand to send a pallet load of surplus school resources to Tonga.

Mrs Huka was inspired to “do something” after seeing an uncle post a photo on Facebook of the school desk he was building for his grandson for school. Touched by the story and knowing the lack of resources available to schools in Tonga, she decided to save surplus school resources potentially going to waste. She asked the school if they would agree to her sending the resources of text and library books, stationery, desks and two sewing machines to schools in Tonga. The school agreed, but it was a week before Christmas and there were no wise men bearing container space headed to Tonga on the horizon.

The school students in Tonga that were recipients of the school resources sent in from New Zealand.
The school students in Tonga that were recipients of the school resources sent in from New Zealand.

Through Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I), Mrs Huka reached out to the New Zealand Tonga Business Council’s Rachel Afeaki Taumoepeau who in turn, put out feelers to the wider network. Luckily, Essendon Tuitupou, a church leader of Faith City Church Trust, also happened to be preparing a container for Tonga. Mr Tuitupou is one of the church leaders who also manages several community, health and leadership programmes in South Auckland. He offered to collect and pack the school resources into their container and distribute them in Tonga. The Faith City Church Trust has been working in Tonga for the past seven years through other church connections in Tonga. They have visited several different schools and taken donated goods such as stationery, textbooks, library books and sports equipment (including sets of soccer uniforms). The church tries to travel annually but the bigger schools programme occurs every second year.

“We try to travel over every year but the big trips which involve getting out to the schools etc., we organise every two years. We find that relationships with groups in Tonga are best maintained on a regular and consistent basis, to not feel like we’re starting over again each time we go over,” Mr Tuitupou said.

Mr Tuitupou says when they receive donated goods, they work with the various contacts to find ways of getting the goods to Tonga. “Although the containers are not organised by us, we often find people willing to include some of our gear in their containers going to Tonga.”

He said, they adopt an active approach by providing educational and sports equipment and this year are establishing the inaugural 116km Run Tonga Ultramarathon and a 58km Half Ultramarathon,  which they hope will encourage people to travel to Tonga and encourage interaction with locals both in Nuku’alofa and the outer villages.

Mrs Afeaki Taumoepeau said the NZ Tonga Business Council get many similar requests from people wanting to send resources to schools in Tonga. However, council policy is they are not a funding organisation but are happy instead to refer such requests on to their members and networks.

“It’s vital for NZTBC to understand who our members and if the opportunities arise to tap into our extensive networks to assist we do so. The hope is that there is a connect out there in the market and if so, it’s a win-win situation for all involved, namely the schools in Tonga receiving the donated items from New Zealand,” Mrs Afeaki Taumoepeau said.

“I would expect schools on the receiving end of donated items from Tonga will be very pleased and humbled. Collaborating with Ligi and Essendon from the Faith City Trust ensures the outcome is achieved – donating schools from New Zealand to schools in Tonga who need it.

“I have seen many organisations who desire to assist Pacific Island schools, but for many not for profit organisations, financially the challenge is getting the goods over to the islands. The Council is happy to collaborate the best way we can – be it direct or via our members and business networks to make a positive contribution back to Tonga and New Zealand.”

For more information, please email Eleanor Ikinofo at Eleanor.i@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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