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Newcastle Men’s Shed, Sione’s Foundation launch appeal to help Tongans


The Newcastle Men’s Shed is joining forces with Sione’s Foundation to help Tongans rebuild their lives in the wake of a couple of natural disasters.

The small Polynesian country was left devastated following a recent volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami, which wreaked havoc on its peace-loving communities.

A World Bank assessment estimated approximately $200 million in damages, the equivalent of 18.5% of Tonga’s Gross Domestic product (GDP).

Now, the two Hunter organisations have launched an appeal to assist with the massive clean-up.

Not only are donations being sought, but so too bottled water and non-perishable food items.

“It’s terrible to see what’s happened over there,” Newcastle Men’s Shed secretary Wayne Grant said.

“So, we’re keen to aid our Pacific Island neighbours any way we can.

“At first, it was hard to find out what was going on.

“Much of Tonga’s communications were cut off from the world.

“But, we caught up with Sione in the past week or two.

“He basically told us Tonga needed money, bottled water and non-perishable food items.

“So, we said, we’ll see what we can do because we have two sites – at Hamilton and New Lambton – where people can drop goods off.

“We’ve also kicked in with a $500 monetary donation.”

The Newcastle Men’s Shed formed a relationship with Sione’s Foundation back in 2019.

The charity, set up by former rugby league star Sione Finefeuiaki, provides Tongan youth with opportunities they didn’t have yesterday.

Initially, each October, a group of passionate volunteers travel from Australia to the Kingdom of Tonga where they give their time, energy and expertise to deliver sports, education, health, well-being and construction programs.

Sione’s Foundation provides Tongan youth with opportunities they didn’t have yesterday.

“Our association all came about when the foundation planned a trip to Tonga and was taking 90-odd people, on this occasion, to undertake restoration work and build new schools over a two-week period,” Mr Grant told the Newcastle Weekly.

“When we made that connection, three of our guys went with them.

“And, they ended up installing a kitchen in a disability centre.

“Sione’s done an incredible job.

“He has some big ideas; however, he’s determined enough to make things happen.”

Ever since that initial meeting, the Newcastle Men’s Shed’s worked hand-in-hand with Sione’s Foundation.

“Everything that’s donated to us by different groups, or people, around Newcastle – that we don’t have an immediate need for – we give Sione a call,” Mr Grant said.

“He comes over, checks it out and says ‘I’ll have that’.

“At present, we’ve got about half a 20-foot container full of tools and equipment to go.

“But, we’ve put that on hold at the moment because he’s asked us to help out in securing bottled water and non-perishable food items.

“So, we’re more than happy to assist him.”

Monetary donations may be made online through the Sione’s Foundation website.

Bottled water and non-perishable food items can be dropped at either of two Men’s shed sites – 99 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, or 143A Kings Road, New Lambton (down laneway next to 143).

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