11 July 2022

Canberra rugby union club fundraises for Tongan village destroyed by tsunami

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Uni-North Owls rugby team

Her Royal Highness, Princess of Tonga, Angelika Tuku’aho, with the ANU Uni-Norths Owls after their win in First Grade at the fundraiser. Photo: John Fely.

When a volcanic eruption caused a tsunami in Tonga on 16 January, the lives of people from the village of Kanokupolu were changed forever.

The volcanic ash destroyed the houses, farmland, buildings and the village hall – the centre of community life.

To help rebuild Kanokupolu, the Uni-Norths Owls Rugby Club held a fundraiser selling plenty of traditional Tongan food, a BBQ, selling coffees, drinks and more. Their target was $50,000.

Owls secretary John Fely said the fundraiser was all about connecting with the community.

“We felt that over the last couple of years, we’ve not had that connection and we thought involving the people of Canberra in a community fundraising event to rebuild the village of Kanokupolu would be a great thing,” John said.

“When you think of how privileged we all are in Canberra, it’s the least we can do as a club and as a rugby community to help the people of Kanokupolu to get back on their feet.

“The support we have received has been fantastic. We already had $17,000 raised before the event, and we had close to 1000 people come along and show their support.”

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Kanokupolu resident Salesi Akauola said the club has a strong connection to the Pacific Islander community, and Tonga has a strong presence in the Canberra rugby league and union scene.

“It’s not just The Owls in the community. There are plenty of businesses and supporters coming together for the fundraiser who are pouring their love into Kanokupolu,” Salesi said.

“It’s been really amazing to see. It has created a great atmosphere.

“We feel very proud to have this compassion and support from the Canberra community for our village back at home.”

Salesi Akauola and api Mafi

Villagers from Kanokupolu, Tonga, Salesi Akauola and Api Mafi at the fundraiser. Photo: Evelyn Karatzas.

The Owls have a strong family connection with Kanokupolu through Falamani Mafi, who was in the ANU team that won the Premiership in 1992, as well as playing for Tonga in the World Cup in 1995.

After holding eight games of rugby throughout the day, selling plenty of food, drink and merchandise to fundraise for Kanokupolu, many special guests also made an appearance at the event.

They include her Royal Highness, Princess of Tonga- Angelika Tuku’aho, the Tongan High Commissioner, ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt and ACT Senator David Pocock.

Her Royal Highness, Princess of Tonga- Angelika Tuku’aho

Her Royal Highness, Princess of Tonga- Angelika Tuku’aho, being escorted into the event. Photo: John Fely.

To donate towards the fundraiser for the tsunami-affected village of Kanokupolu, visit the Australian Sports Foundation.

If interested in bidding on any items that will go towards the fundraiser, visit Allbids.

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