Donations from New Zealand companies are flowing into vanilla brand Heilala Vanilla to assist with aid to ‘Eua following the devastation of Cyclone Gita in Tonga.
The New Zealand-based company, which has supplier links with the 40 or so vanilla growers on the island and has established the Heilala Vanilla Foundation, has received donations of goods and services from a range of supporters, including long-life milk from Lewis Road Creamery and biscuits from Griffin’s Food Company.
Chief executive Jennifer Boggiss says the island – home to 5000 people and 800 households divided between 13 villages – has been badly hit, with wide-spread devastation to crops and buildings. Her father and company co-founder John Ross is currently in Tonga and has reported an immediate need for non-perishable food as well as machinery to help clear fallen trees and debris.
“We have been personally touched by this disaster, as ‘Eua is home to over 40 vanilla growers,” she says. “These communities are already vulnerable with limited resources to overcome natural disasters. We remain loyal to Tonga and will do whatever is required to support our team and community there.”
Heilala has set up a donation page on its website, and every dollar will go directly to the people of ‘Eua. The company will cover all administrative and associated costs required for the foundation, which is attempting to secure chainsaws, building materials, clothing, disposable nappies and items for ‘Eua High School.
“The requirement for this relief is immediate and there’s limited air freight to Tonga available,” Boggiss says. “Heilala Vanilla is seeking the support of Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Government to expedite the initial shipment.
Heilala was established in 2002 in partnership with a local family in Vava’u as an aid project following Cyclone Waka. The category four Cyclone Gita, which hit the island in mid-February, has left complete villages flattened, with limited access to food and water. Vanilla plantations and partner growers associated with Heilala are spread across the island.
People wishing to support the Heilala Vanilla Foundation in helping the victims of Cyclone Gita can donate at https://goo.gl/9nt134 .