Family repair crew to help Tonga
As cyclone Gita destroyed his home in Tonga, all Veni Uhila could do was watch it on television.
The New Plymouth based builder had a sleepless night on Monday but it was only when he got hold of his policeman cousin at midday on Tuesday that he realised how bad it really was in Tonga.
So now Uhila and his sons Taani, 22, and Siaosi, 10, are putting their New Zealand lives on hold to head to Tonga and help their family rebuild.
‘‘My plan is to go and just make sure it’s safe,’’ Uhila said. ‘‘We’re just doing this from the good of our heart.’’
Uhila grew up in the Tongan village of Lapaha, just one of many largely destroyed by Gita.
He said as soon as he realised how widespread the destruction was he wanted to ‘‘give back’’ to his home and organised the trip with his sons.
That has meant packing nine bags full of tools, which is costing them $800 to take over.
They plan to buy the materials they need to fix the homes when they get there. Uhila is under no illusions building materials will be short supply.
Since letting people know he was heading over to Tonga to help, he had been inundated with messages from family and friends asking for help.
‘‘I said ‘look, you can only do so much’,’’ Uhila said. ‘‘It’s only me and my boys.’’
New Plymouth’s St Pius X School community, where Siaosi is a student and Taani a graduate, had given the family $1000 to help with their expenses overseas.
Despite the fact Siaosi, 10, has minimal building experience he was looking forward to helping in Tonga.
‘‘We’re going to be travelling around the whole village and going to the most damaged houses,’’ he said.
Taani, 22, Siaosi, 10, dad Veni Uhila are going back to Tonga to help rebuild after cyclone Gita.