TIST Partnership: Rebuilding after disaster with local communities

Sep 6, 2022

Over the past two months, Habitat for Humanity’s disaster response programme in Tonga has been gaining momentum as we get building supplies and materials ordered, and finalise the disaster affected households who will be benefitting from the rebuild programme following the devastating tsunami earlier this year. 

Habitat has formed a partnership with the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (TIST), who are a part of the Ministry of Education in Tonga, to undertake our rebuild project. They will deliver a programme of training and practical building experience to enhance local community knowledge in Build Back Safer (BBS) methods. Key members of the Habitat team were fortunate to be able to travel to Tonga to formalise these arrangements. 


TIST partnership, signing,

Alan Thorp, CEO of Habitat New Zealand, shaking hands with Dr Tangikina Moimoi Steen, CEO of The Ministry of Education.


During the visit, Habitat met with key leaders, including Dr. Tangikina Moimoi Steen, CEO of The Ministry of Education, to sign the official partnership agreement. 

“We are deeply heartened to be able to work with Habitat to provide additional value to our students, and our curriculum,” says Dr. Steen.  

It was very exciting to put pen to paper with a signed contract and we’re looking forward to the upcoming rebuild.  Our approach to this partnership is multifaceted and has been developed to target both the medium and longer-term needs of the community. 


TIST students, model house building site, Tonga disaster response

In preparation for the rebuild, TIST students are building a house ‘model’ to practise skills.


As part of our partnership with TIST, some of their second-year carpentry students will help to build up to 12 houses for vulnerable families on the main island of Tongatapu and the outer island of Ha’apai. Work took place in July and August to identify the vulnerable families that will eventually be dedicated to these homes. 

A meeting also took place with the Hon. Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni, Prime Minister of Tonga, to brief him on the project and its implementation, of which he is very supportive. It was a fantastic opportunity for Habitat to further emphasise our commitments to Tonga as we continue our vision of everyone having a decent place to live. 


Tonga visit, TIST signing visit, Tonga Prime Minister

Alan Thorp (left), CEO of Habitat New Zealand, meeting with the Hon. Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni, Prime Minister of Tonga (right).


Beyond the formalities, this trip highlights the energy and enthusiasm the TIST team, their tutors and students have for the work programme we have agreed with them. They are deeply moved by the plight of the families who are awaiting these rebuilds and eager to start work as soon as possible, a sentiment we so whole-heartedly share. 

We are grateful to Tongan officials for supporting our project and welcoming us so warmly and we are looking forward to working closely with TIST to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. 

Donate to our Tonga response today: https://habitat.org.nz/donate/tonga/