One of the completed Hunga Tonga Habitat Project homes on Tongatapu, Tonga.
Photo/Habitat for Humanity NZ
Habitat for Humanity NZ have built eight new homes in Tonga for families devastated by the tsunami and earthquake disaster in January 2022.
The keys to eight new homes have been handed over to families in Tonga affected by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai disaster last year.
The new homes, built by Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, are positioned on higher ground on the islands of Tongatapu and Nomuka.
CEO Alan Thorp says the project represents hope and resilience, but most of all is a fresh start for those affected.
"These homes are constructed with Build Back Better techniques including cyclone strapping techniques and weather-resistant considerations," Thorp says.
Beachfront buildings destroyed by the tsunami on the West Coast of Tongatapu, Tonga. Photo/Habitat for Humanity NZ
'Eseta Kuliha’apai, a single mother who lost her home because of the disaster, says the new home's higher ground helps her feel a lot less anxious.
"We do continue to live in fear [but] knowing that our new home is on higher grounds is so reassuring," Kuliha’apai says.
‘Eseta and her daughter Ivy during the rebuild last year. Photo/Habitat for Humanity NZ
She says her house that was devasted by the tsunami and that because of financial hardhship she would not have been able to acquire a new home.
"I still panic when I hear any loud bang thinking we will be hit by a tsunami," she says.
"Honestly, this project has helped me to overcome my fears slowly, knowing that we will have a home again."
Habitat has also partnered with the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (TIST) and the NZ-based building company Home Foundation to both build homes and the skills of the local youth.
TIST students got involved with the rebuild, gaining practical experience and theoretical knowledge shared with them by Home Foundation.
"Knowing and seeing the efforts from the [TIST] students building my home has just been overwhelming," Kuliha’apai says.
Sione, another community member that has now relocated into their new home in Popua says upon hearing they were one of the Habitat families that they "were so happy".
"Where we live is very low-lying, when the tsunami came the water level came up to our home," Sione says.
"Our house has been affected by previous cyclones and we haven't had the money to do any maintenance," he says.
Sione and his family standing on the ramp of their new home. Photo/Habitat for Humanity NZ
Sione says knowing their home was prone to natural disasters was worrying, especially since he has a disability and houses many grandchildren.
"With now a new home that is also disability friendly, this is much easier for me and my wheelchair."