Two Northland DHB renal nurses are giving up two weeks of their annual leave this month to head to Tonga on a self-funded trip, to support the people with disabilities of Nukualofa.
The trip will be a first for Te Atawhai Beirne who will join her builder husband, Simon, who has been seven times previously.
Fellow nurse, Jono Anderton has done the trip five times with his family and says every time it makes them feel very humble.
“It’s amazing they can survive with so little, and they are happy with whatever we can do for them. Two years ago, we visited a home that we’d previously built, and they roasted a pig for us. We were so embarrassed because it would’ve cost them so much, but it was an honour for them to do this for us.”
Jono said that each time the experience positively affects them all, and it has been especially beneficial for his children. His daughter Zara was inspired to become a nurse after seeing her parents not only build homes but use their medical skills to help out over the years.
A team of nine people from Renew Church and Calvary Chapel make the trip every two years, working in partnership with the Mango Tree Centre, a rehabilitation centre that provides free physiotherapy, computer classes, counselling and recreational facility activities to disabled people and their families. Over the years, they have built five houses for the community, but this year, their focus is to build five wheelchair access ramps for people with disabilities.
Jono’s wife Jo is a podiatrist and will also be taking some specialised equipment and dressings with her to help a local podiatrist set up a clinic in Nukualofa.
He says it will be interesting to see how much the Island has changed after Cyclone Gita hit Tonga in 2018. The cyclone was labelled the worst storm to hit the country in 60 years, so they expect to be assisting with quite a bit of repair work.
The two churches have managed to raise nearly $10,000 to purchase building materials on the Tongatapu Island along with some medical supplies. If anyone would like to support the purchase of building supplies please contact either church.
Image: Jono Anderton and Te Atawhai Beirne and a house that will have a wheelchair ramp built.