Gunnedah’s Wendy Marsh has been buoyed by the community’s generous support of a Tongan school damaged by tsunami last year.

Gunnedah rallied behind Kolomotu’a Government Middle School in Tonga, raising tens of thousands of dollars through this month’s gala ball to help rebuild the school library.

It followed a Gunnedah delegation’s visit to Tonga last year as part of the community’s new sister city partnership with Kolomotu’a.

Wendy described how an emotional visit to the school during the Tonga trip left such a lasting impression on the Gunnedah visitors, they vowed to make every effort to help those affected by the tsunami.

“The school is based close to the shoreline and was highly impacted by the tsunami that came after the volcanic eruption,” she said.

“We came into the school, we drove past tents, buildings that had been damaged and were greeted by all the school children waving and singing.

“We were taken inside and the principal gave a speech and became very emotional because she really looks after the children.”

Wendy said this school accommodates the majority of students from Kolomotu’a and although the teachers had set up classrooms to ensure children could continue learning, their staff room was just a tent.

The school’s library was also badly damaged.

“We decided on that trip that the school would be one of our focuses and we handed a hat around on the bus and presented [the money] to the school on the last day of our visit,” she said.

“They were so appreciative and we were so happy to do it.

“They’re amazing people, they do such a good job.”

Wendy said Gunnedah’s continued fundraising assistance will make a big difference to the generous Kolomotu’a community.

“They are an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific and we can certainly give them a little help along the way,” she said.

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