Tonga Build Underway
A very excited team of 15 volunteer Kiwi builders (including an electrician and plumber) arrived safely in Tonga on October 16, ready to get to work. The concrete foundation for the new Kolowai Corps fale nofo’anga (officers’ quarters) had already been laid in preparation by local Tongans, and the two 40-foot shipping containers holding all the material for a brand new four-bedroom EasyBuild fale were waiting on site. Following the Hunga Tonga Ha’apai eruption in January 2022 and the tsunami that followed, the need for a new, permanent fale nofo’anga was expediated.
With only two weeks to complete the project, the Kiwi team wasted no time getting work, with most of the framing up by the end of day three. Most days begin with a briefing and motivational talk from Build Team Leader Pete Walker, with work commencing by 7.30am. The working days are long to make the most of the daylight hours, with the team downing tools around 7pm. Following a carefully curated work plan, lunchtime on day five saw electrical, plumbing and wall linings all underway, as well as the purlins for the roof. Preparation for the water and septic tanks had also begun. As the first week on site ended, both the interior and exterior milestones had been met.
A very welcome rest day on Sunday saw the team travel to Pangaimotu Island for some decompression, exploration and a taste of Tongan life and culture. But there was no Labour Day holiday for the team, just more labour! And as the second week of work kicked off, attention turned to the roof. With temperatures well into the 20s by the afternoon, a swim after work was essential, but by day eight the roof was complete.
‘Throughout our time here we’ve had phenomenal support from local volunteers which has allowed the project to progress at an accelerated rate. We continue to be fed exceedingly well during the day, by friendly and enthusiastic groups from around Tonga. The build team are incredibly grateful for all this local support. Our team are in high spirits as we head into the final days of work here in Tonga,’ says Pete. ‘A huge thanks again to our whānau and friends who are behind us all the way.’
As well as donating their time and skills for the fale build, the team also came prepared with donations from New Zealanders of play equipment for the Kolovai Corps Kindergarten, as well as two other kindergartens on the island. Media Liaison Officer Mandy Carian reports that ‘the wheelbarrow and other gardening tools are proving a great hit with the gorgeous kindy kids who are making great progress on their garden. A huge thank you to those who donated to make this happen,’ says Mandy. ‘You put a lot of smiles on faces today.’
The new fale nofo’anga is being built on the 6-acre compound owned by The Salvation Army, alongside the Kolovai Corps fale Lotu (church building), kindergarten and farm. This will be the first time since the corps was planted that the officers will be situated on site—living and ministering among the local Kolovai people which is essential in Tongan culture. ‘Being onsite will increase ministry capacity tremendously,’ affirms Regional Leader Captain Kenneth Walker. ‘It’s all about getting the officers back into the community so that their ministry can be elevated and supported practically.’
Check out the Tonga Build Facebook page for daily updates and time lapse videos of progress.