The island kingdom of Tonga encompasses 36 inhabited and 133 uninhabited islands, scattered across almost 700,000km in the Pacific Ocean. On the 12th of February 2018, Tropical Cyclone Gita struck Tonga, the most powerful tropical cyclone since formal records began. At least 800 homes were completely destroyed and thousands more buildings were damaged. The consequences of the storm have affected over 80,000 people.
The Mullane Foundation wanted to help repair some of that damage. Founded by H L Mullane & Son, a New South Wales plumbing and construction company, the Mullane Foundation was established to help provide clean water, sanitation and electricity for communities that need it the most. In the aftermath of Gita, the team at Mullane were determined to do some work in Tonga to assist the recovery efforts. They visited the country in October 2018 to do some work at Kolonga Primary School.
This year, the Mullane Foundation headed back to Tonga with the support of the Reece Grant. The Mullane Foundation used their Grant to build on the solid foundation they established last year, completing not one, but three projects. First, they replaced the roof of Kolonga Primary School, creating a much more comfortable space for learning. They also extended the schools’ toilet facilities. Wayne from Mullane says, ‘This has really altered the future for these kids… more of them are showing up to school. It’s a much safer environment, with clean drinking water.’
Second, they installed showers at ‘Eua Hospital, bringing hot water facilities that have been appreciated by both patients and staff.
However, their largest project was at Alonga Disability Hospital. Here, they installed completely new facilities, including clean drinking water, running hot water for showers, toilets, bubblers and other plumbing work. ‘Understandably, patients were reluctant to take cold showers,’ adds Wayne. ‘Access to hot water is improving both their health and quality of life.’
The Foundation is about more than just constructing and maintaining facilities. Ultimately, it’s about imparting knowledge to the locals and making sure they’re empowered to control their own resources. Erin from Mullane says, ‘A successful project is really when we’ve actually engaged the local community and taught them to maintain and repair the facilities themselves.’