Here’s how to help Tonga tsunami relief efforts in Anchorage

Three pPolyneesian women stnad around a table piled with clothing and fold it
Workers and volunteers at the Manai Fou Assembly of God church in Anchorage’s Airport Heights neighborhood sort donated clothing on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2021 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s Polynesian community is collecting clothes, blankets, food, water filters and money to send to Tonga after the islands were hit by a devastating tsunami nearly two weeks ago. 

Lucy Hansen, the president of the Polynesian Association of Alaska, said she’s been hearing from the Tongan community about the conditions on the islands. 

“They’re sleeping outside, under a tree, under a coconut tree or wherever they can find shelter,” said Hansen.

She said the food that locals grow has largely been destroyed by the tsunami, which was caused by the massive eruption of an underwater volcano. Water sources have also been contaminated, she said, so the group is looking for donations of water filters. 

People with items to donate can drop them off at the Manai Fou Assembly of God Church in Airport Heights through the end of Wednesday at 8 p.m. There are also donation sites at two Latter Day Saints churches at 2240 Baxter Rd and 2501 Maplewood Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Updated information will be posted on the Polynesian Association’s Facebook page. 

RELATED: Tongans in Juneau wrestle with how best to help loved ones affected by the eruption and tsunami

People can also donate money directly to the Polynesian Association. Hansen said that money will be used to buy the most needed items based on requests relayed through Tongans in Anchorage who are in direct contact with their families on the island. 

City officials say they are working to coordinate at least two separate shipments of donated items to Tonga. The first shipment of up to 10,000 pounds is coordinated through the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse and will leave on an airplane within the next few days.

“They’ll be able to take the phones, the food that is purchased out there, directly straight to Tonga, immediately,” said Junior Aumavae, the city’s chief equity officer who is helping coordinate the shipments. 

A second cargo shipment will leave in several weeks and was donated by Matson Shipping. Aumavae said that one will ship directly to Tonga and be able to carry up to 120,000 pounds. 

“That  will give the community time to raise some of the items that were listed,” he said. 

Volunteers and workers at Manai Fou Assembly of God Church were collecting items throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday. Hansen said the group had raised a couple hundred dollars so far. 

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This story has been updated.

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.

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