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Kyabram does its bit for Tonga

Kyabram’s Mia Nowosad is rallying local support for Tonga’s northern islands which were devasted by Cyclone Ian.

February 5, 2014 4:40am

Mia and Michael Nowosad pack the second batch of supplies to send out to Tonga to help the residents of Mo'unga'one which include Mia's brother and his wife.


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When Cyclone Ian hit Tonga’s northern islands on January 12, Kyabram’s Mia Nowosad feared for the safety of her relatives.

Mrs Nowosad, who works as a district nurse at Kyabram District Health Service and is also a popular player at Kyabram Bowls Club, was born on the tiny island of Mo’unga’one.

With the island’s solar powered electricity system down and limited communication, she was glad to hear from a relative on another island that everyone on Mo’unga’one, including her older brother Tesimoni Paea and his wife Lata, were safe.

‘‘It was a great relief to hear they were okay and in good spirits,’’ Mrs Nowosad said.

Mo’unga’one, which has a population of less than 150, forms part of the Ha’apai group of islands and is one of smallest and most remote in Tonga.

The eye of the category five storm passed close to the low lying island during the early hours of Sunday, January 12 hitting it with winds of more than 280km/h, the worst residents can remember and of similar strength to Cyclone Tracey that hit Darwin in 1974.

Cyclone Ian flattened 28 of the island’s 30 houses, with the remaining two damaged, but still standing along with Mo’unga’one’s two churches, which were virtually undamaged and able to provide shelter from the storm for residents.

‘‘Most of the residents were left with no shelter, little more than the clothes they were wearing, and at the moment they’re really dependent on the generosity of others for many daily essentials,’’ Mrs Nowosad said.

‘‘They lost their fishing boats, but are still able to fish from the shore to catch some fresh food and some tents have been provided for shelter.’’

Mrs Nowosad and her husband Michael responded quickly to the disaster and launched a local appeal in Kyabram.

With help from friends at the Community Church of Kyabram, they gathered a range of items including tinned food, clothing, blankets, cutlery and some basic tools to send to the residents of Mo’unga’one.

The first pallet load was sent off last week and is expected to arrive in Tonga on March 2.

They already have enough items, except for some much needed small hand tools and nails, to send a further two pallets and are urgently raising money to pay the shipping costs of $880 per pallet.

‘‘The church members have been incredible, although their generosity is not a surprise, and even people we don’t know have helped us out. It gives you great belief in people,’’ Mr Nowosad said.

‘‘We’ve also had great support from local businesses who have donated items for us to use as raffle prizes to help raise the money we need to send out another two pallet loads. We can’t express our thanks enough to all those who are helping.

‘‘We’re hoping to get a lot of support for the raffle and add the proceeds to some cash donations so that we can send the rest out quickly.’’

Mrs Nowosad said she was pleased to be living somewhere that showed great generosity and a place from where she was able to send help.

‘‘My brother will be very proud of his little sister. We’ve managed to email another relative, Sione Paea, who lives on a different island to say what is on the way to them,’’ she said.

Sione’s reply read ‘‘On behalf of the people of Mo’unga’one, I am taking this opportunity to say ‘Malo Aupito’ (thanks very much) to you Mike and Mia and the community of Kyabram, Victoria, Australia’’.

Mrs Nowosad has applied to Campaspe Shire Council for permission to sell raffle tickets outside Kyabram Newsagency in Allan St for the next two Saturday mornings. Tickets are also available from the newsagency, Kyabram Paintright, Kyabram Leading Appliances or by phoning Michael Nowosad on 0412464119. Please note no further items are required for shipping to Tonga, except a few specific small hand tools and nails.

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