Vodafone’s Te Rourou Foundation and Red Cross join forces to provide relief to Tonga

By Marena Mane

The Red Cross and Vodafone New Zealand have teamed up to help whānau affected by the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga almost two weeks ago,

Thanks to widespread devastation and the loss of the underwater communications cable, communication, and internet access have been limited, and fears of the Covid-19 pandemic arriving have prevented humanitarian workers from visiting the islands.

Red Cross director international at Red Cross Vivienne Euini said that on the weekend the Red Cross team at Wiri in Tāmaki Makaurau were busy loading two truckloads of essential supplies, ready to head to Tonga.

 “We received a request for basic supplies that are needed, so in the weekend we were really lucky to be able to manage to get our relief supplies on one of the New Zealand Defence Force flights so we’re sending things like tarpaulins, blankets, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, etc to assist the people in Tonga.”

The New Zealand Red Cross team was told by the Red Cross team in Tonga that they had enough supplies to sustain 1,200 households immediately after the accident but more was needed. These supplies went for Tonga this morning.

“The Defence Force flight leaves at 7am on Tuesday so it will arrive in the country the same day but the Tongan government has a contact list and MIQ systems for all suppliers that arrive so they won’t be released for 72 hours after arrival.”

Vodafone chipping in too

Te Rourou Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation chair Juliet Jones says Vodafone wants to ensure it is providing communication support for its staff, their customers, and whānau in Aotearoa affected by the devastation in Tonga.

“Since the eruption happened we’ve been crediting back calls made to Tonga from Vodafone landlines and mobiles and that will go through until the end of January and that’s really important for us because it’s enabled all our people, our customers to stay in contact with their whānau and friends in Tonga,” she says.

“We’re also helping to get some on-the-ground connectivity set up as well to try and improve the situation to keep whānau and friends connected.”

Jones says the charity, in partnership with the Red Cross, has launched a Givealittle page for people in Aotearoa who want to donate to the cause.

“So Vodafone and our charity, Te Rourou Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation have pledged to New Zealand that we will triple every dollar that is given to the Red Cross for buying these essential supplies, so we’re hoping to raise up to $200,000, which will become $600,000, which is going towards buying these things to get to Tonga on the ground.”

 Donations can be made through the Vodafone Foundation / Red Cross Pacific Tsunami Appeal’s Give-a-little page. (Vodafone Foundation/Red Cross Pacific Tsunami Appeal - Givealittle)