The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, in conjunction with the Pasifika Communities of Townsville, will hold a fundraiser for Tonga at the Cowboys’ first home game of the 2022 NRL season on Sunday, March 13.
Tonga was devastated by tsunami waves and volcanic ash following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on January 15.
Much of mainland Tonga and surrounding islands were covered in toxic volcanic ash and thousands were forced to flee their homes as tsunami waves flooded low lying areas. Communication was cut to Tonga and is still yet to be fully restored, while fresh food and drinking water continue to remain in short supply.
After consultation with club captain Jason Taumalolo, who is also the skipper of the Tongan national side, the Cowboys have finalised a three-pronged fundraising initiative.
Members and fans attending the Cowboys’ season-opening clash against the Bulldogs will be invited to make a gold coin donation, with members of Pasifika Communities of Townsville manning collection tins at entry points. The Cowboys will also contribute a cash donation.
Taumalolo will donate his playing boots from this month’s trial against the Broncos alongside a Cowboys signature jersey for Pasifika Communities of Townsville to auction.
“We were devastated to see the destruction on Tonga following the volcanic eruption last month,” Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel said.
“Our club has a close connection with Tonga through Jason and the numerous Cowboys of Tongan heritage to come before him.
“We hope our contribution can provide support to Tongan families who continue to feel the effects of the disaster.
“We encourage all Cowboys members and fans to dig deep as they approach the gates for our season opener on March 13.”
Taumalolo, whose parents were both born in Tonga, was unable to contact relatives and friends on the island for more than a week following the volcanic eruption.
“It’s been extremely tough for my people back in Tonga, there has been a lot of devastation back at home,” the Cowboys skipper said/
“Around 90 per cent of Tonga was covered in ash, there isn’t a lot of clean drinking water over there and the banks are not back up and running so no one can get money to buy supplies.
“I’m really happy as a club we are able to do our bit to help people back in Tonga rebuild their lives.”
Pasifika Communities of Townsville chairman Tunaefa Omeli urged the North Queensland community to throw their support behind the fundraiser.
“The fundraising is the initiative by the Pasifika Communities of Townsville Group to provide much-needed help and support for the Tsunami affected people in Tonga, especially the people of Mango and Fonoi communities,” he said.
“Those communities are now left with no drinking water and their food rations are running low. They are without their homes, schools and churches. Their livelihood, their plantations and the source of food and income they once depended on are all but disappeared, totally destroyed by the Tsunami.
“We must also not forget that more than often the most vulnerable of the affected communities are often forgotten. They are the children, the elderly and the disabled. Our effort is to raise as much as we can to provide for the containers of water, food supply, shelters, tools and children's stationery with some toys.
“We are also looking at sending psychologists over to assist with the affected children mentally, providing we raise enough from our fundraising.
“So please help us, help our people in Tonga."
Auction details will follow closer to Round 1.