Caritas Tonga work first began in 1972 as Commission the Catholic Commission for Justice and Development (CCJD), under the Bishops’ Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC). Caritas Tonga officially became a fully-fledged member of Caritas Internationalis in 2002 and is an agency for justice, peace and development of the Catholic Diocese of Tonga and Niue in two independent nations in the South Pacific – Niue and the Kingdom of Tonga.
Through such campaigns such as Disaster Awareness & Climate Change, Caritas Tonga raises public awareness about the current environmental issues threatening Tonga such as deforestation and rising sea levels.
One Caritas Tonga initiative is the community water catchment restoration project. Nearly 4000 people in six villages across western and eastern Tongatapu will soon have better access to safe drinking water. The New Zealand Government, through its Humanitarian and Disaster Management Aid Programme, has committed NZD51,000 to Caritas Tonga for the restoration of water supply catchments in communities vulnerable to water scarcity, particularly during El Niño conditions. New Zealand High Commissioner HE Sarah Walsh presented the cheque to Caritas Tonga Director Sr. Senolita Vakata. The project forms part of the Tongan WASH Cluster recovery plan and will take a year to complete.
Caritas Tonga main office in Nuku’alofa has a staff of around 5 employees and over 200 volunteers to carry out the agency’s activities. In addition, to the Secretariat there are 13 Caritas Parish committees in the Diocese of Tonga and Niue.
Caritas Tonga is a member of Caritas Oceania and Caritas Internationalis and collaborates with Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and Caritas Australia to foster community and youth development, self-reliance and economic opportunities, and access to clean water and sanitation.
The impact of Cyclone Winston on Fiji has been severe as the Pacific nation was lashed with very destructive hurricane force winds Saturday gusting to 300 kmph. The storm had earlier hit Tonga, where Caritas is now delivering aid.
Global temperatures averaging almost 1oC above normal. For people in some parts of the world, this might still seem like a technical measurement, or a future concern. For us in Oceania, it is rapidly becoming a matter of life or death.
Oceania includes an area referred to ‘The Amazon of the Seas’ because of its rich biodiversity. The region is vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and we are the first people who will experience migration as a direct result of such climate conditions.