News Release

Church Helps Ha'apai Families Rebuild Homes and Learn New Job Skills in Wake of Cyclone

"The Saviour’s love and influence are evident throughout the world,” says Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“And now I have seen and felt that love and influence first-hand on the Tongan island of Ha’apai.”

Elder Nielsen just returned to his home in Auckland, New Zealand after a week-long visit to the Kingdom of Tonga that included a tour of a Latter-day Saint project on the island of Ha’apai.

The project is helping families as they rebuild their homes and community after a cyclone devastated their island earlier this year.

“The people of Ha’apai have great faith in Jesus Christ,” Elder Nielsen said. “They are working hard and working together to raise up their damaged or destroyed homes, to raise up their gardens and crops again, and to raise up their job skills for the future.”

The joint Latter-day Saint and Tonga Government humanitarian project has three main aims.  To assist locals to build new homes for families who lost theirs in the cyclone; to train 40 men and 25 high school young men in construction skills; and to support families as they increase their self-reliance.

Verna Tukuafu, a self-reliance manager for the Church in Tonga, is coordinating the upskilling of 40 men with the assistance of the Tongan Institute of Science and Technology (TIST). As the men build the homes they are also qualifying for level 1 construction certification.  

These 40 volunteers are from Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Kauvai. They received three weeks of intense class work and practical application under the direction of qualified instructors from the TIST. During this period three houses were completed, allowing these volunteers a start to finish experience. 

Local construction companies have expressed interest in hiring these men upon completion of their certification. Some of the men have expressed a desire to continue their education with TIST for advanced certification. 

The 25 high school young men are local boys from Ha’apai returning home for the summer. As they assist with the project they will gain valuable work experience.

Some of the volunteers have been joined by family members who are working alongside them. Many have sacrificed in providing lunches, dinners and drinking water for the workers. 

Nearly every family in Ha’apai has a home garden or plantation (small farm). Church volunteers are working with families to maintain and expand their gardens as well as complete various  community beautification projects.

Elder and Sister DeLong, welfare missionaries for the Church, said, “The greatest blessing for us has been working with these 40 men. They begin and end each day with a hymn and a prayer. There is a great love and comradery among them and expressions of their strong gospel testimonies.”




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