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Tongan carpentry students receive vocational training from Home as the Tonga rebuild continues

Nov 9, 2022

Earlier this year, the devastating underwater eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano and subsequent tsunami left many local Tongan families displaced and without safe, healthy shelter. 

In mid-October, a group of qualified builders, electricians, and project managers from Home visited Tonga alongside Habitat for Humanity New Zealand to assist with our disaster response rebuild. Home is a national construction and development company with a kaupapa to see all people have a place to call home.  

Habitat for Humanity has partnered with the Tongan Institue of Science and Technology (TIST) to help rebuild homes in Tonga following the disaster. About 30 third-year carpentry students will gain practical experience and put their training into action helping to build up to 12 transitional homes for vulnerable families affected by the tsunami. The two organisations will also work together to find ways Build Back Safer (BBS) training can be delivered to community participants. TIST will contribute to ongoing Habitat research focusing on making better use of cost-effective, local materials to rebuild after a natural disaster. 

Home’s expert tradesmen and Habitat Northern Region construction representatives were based at the TIST campus to help with with the start of the rebuild project. The team gave training and advice to the carpentry students, and assisted with the development of project and systems management. 

“There was a tremendous skills transfer to the TIST students and tutors who learnt a lot from the Home team. They learnt practical building and site management skills that they would otherwise never have been exposed to. Those skills will be invaluable throughout their careers in the trades, benefitting their own livelihoods and the future shelter-resilience of their community,” says Lou Maea, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand Technical Manager. 

 

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(Right to left) Jay Davies, Construction Development Manager at Habitat Northern Region, Israel Cooper, Managing Director of Home, Simon, Rodrigo, Michael, and the Home team take a tour of TIST’s facilities and large campus accommodating hundreds of students.

 

 

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Upon arrival, the Home team visited a previously busy beachfront on the West Cast of Tongatapu,Tonga, that has been left devastated after the powerful January tsunami. It was a sobering sight for the team and further reinforced their purpose in Tonga.

 

The Home team made a real difference to the building project, as well as the students’ education,. The team made fantastic progress towards safe shelter for  families left most vulnerable after the tsunami. Over their four days of mahi, four homes had critical foundations completed and are now ready to be transported to site where cladding, roofing, electrical and plumbing will be installed.  

“The Home team brought a wealth of expertise in design, quantity surveying, building systems and processes which were absolutely critical to starting this rebuild project. They were the right people at the right time with the right blend of skills. By the end of their four days at the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (TIST), four homes were ready to progress with cladding and roofing. Amazing headway in the time they had,” adds Lou.  

 

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A building expert from Home works side-by-side to train and rebuild with the TIST carpentry students.

 

“Our team are excited to be back in the field once again supporting the great work of Habitat in the Asia Pacific region. After years of travel restrictions, it was wonderful to be able to take a team to support the recovery and rebuild efforts in Tonga. The partnership between Home, Habitat for Humanity NZ, and TIST is an innovative and sustainable way to support the capability and capacity building of TIST and the Tongan people. This project is not only rebuilding more resilient homes in Tonga, but an excellent opportunity to learn from and share knowledge with our pacific neighbours,” says Israel Cooper, Director of Home.  

 

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The Home team with TIST carpentry students standing in front of a frame for a home that was built during the week.