KEY POINTS

  • A Tongan dual-athlete takes the initiative to raise funds to aid his countrymen affected by volcanic eruptions
  • Pita Taufatofua has already raised $501,115 for the victims
  • 84% of the population have reportedly been affected by ashfall and tsunami.

Most will remember Pita Taufatofua as the athlete who led the Tonga contingent in the last Tokyo Olympics.

Although he was not there when the volcanic eruptions occurred, the 38-year-old embarked on a GoFundMe drive to help his countrymen in this time of need.

Taufatofua, an athlete in taekwondo and cross-county skiing, created the campaign on Saturday, January 22.

It was timely in the sense that it was the day when the most forceful eruptions occurred in Tonga.

Currently training in Australia, Taufatofua has been providing updates on the state of his country via the GoFundMe page that has raised AU$698,468 (US$501,115).

The target goal to reach is said to be AU$1 million (US$717, 450).

“In preparation and through the recovery efforts, we are seeking your donations to help our island Kingdom. My Father, the governor of Haapai is on Tongatapu. At this stage, we haven't heard from him but are preparing for assistance for the country. Haapai is a series of low-laying islands, most of which have no elevation,” part of Taufatofua’s post read.

“Initial priority for the funds will go towards those most in need, infrastructure, and damage to schools, hospitals, etc. This is an ongoing fundraiser and will be updated regularly. Your assistance and support in this time of need are greatly appreciated."

Aside from being a dual-athlete, Taufatofua is also a UNICEF ambassador and motivational speaker.

His popularity grew when he appeared in a traditional Tongan taʻovala wrapped around his waist with his chest bare and oiled as Tonga's flagbearer in the 2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, something he went on to reprise as flagbearer in the 2018 Winter Olympics and then in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

In the latest update on the situation in Tonga, the Guardian reported that 84% of the population have been affected by ashfall and tsunami.

So far, two locals have died. They were identified as 49-year-old Lataimaumi Lauaki and 65-year-old Telai Tutu’ila.

Flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua of Team Tonga Flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua of Team Tonga Photo: Getty Images | Patrick Smith