In response to the devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami that impacted Tonga, world-famous Olympian Pita Taufatofua has been working hard to raise awareness that the people from his homeland need help. According to ESPN, Taufatofua started a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $1 million of which they have raised over $560,000 thus far. While training in Australia, Taufatofua has been particularly concerned about the lack of communication with his homeland and getting relief aid quickly to the people.
In an interview with ESPN, Taufatofua described the difficult conditions facing the people of Tonga. Taufatofua shared that he is worried about the health of the people and how his country will survive as it relies on agriculture, not only for their own food source, but as a way to bring in money as it is Tonga’s largest export. He stated, “It’s devastating what they’re living in because we’ve got this layer of ash cloud that’s covering the 170-plus islands. When people saw [the videos of] that huge mushroom cloud, to think that in the center of that there’s a country, and all of that [ash] then falls back and settles on our roofs. Drinking water is being affected. [There’s also the] respiratory health of the people breathing in this sulfur-rich dust. And what we’re just finding out now is that there’s the devastating impact on agriculture as well. Because in the long term, the volcanic ash is good for the soil. In the short term, it destroys plant life. There’s no photosynthesis because every leaf is covered. And then if it were to rain, you have acidic rain.”
Taufatofua has been trying to communicate with his father, who is the governor of Ha’apai, but has failed, at this point, to make contact. Taufatofua is not the only one struggling to make contact with his family since Tonga has only a 2G network that has been set up temporarily. He was able to hear a one-way message from other family members who were on a separate island from his father, but he has not been able to reach out to them.
In response to questions about how he is handling the situation, Taufatofua shared that he believes it is time to stand up and get to work. Being prepared for devastating events like these is important, and he knows the people of Tonga will push through. Taufatofua’s GoFundMe page is providing a significant source of help for the country. With the donations, Tonga will be able to rebuild schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure that was damaged in the tsunami. Taufatofua expressed immense gratitude for all donations, big and small, that will be used to help Tonga recover.
Through spreading awareness of the plight of the people of Tonga whose lives were uplifted by the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami, more relief aid should arrive and help make a difference in their recovery. Taufatofua is reaching out to everyone asking for help for his homeland, and his commitment to the efforts is guaranteed to garner more support as his word continues to spread.