The Tongan communities in the United States are rising to the occasion to send assistance home to Tonga for the families of the victims in the inter-island ferry MV Princess Ashika's mysterious sinking August 5, during a Tongatapu-to-Ha'apai/Vava'u voyage. Seventy passengers and crew members are presumed dead.
The Tongan-American community leaders have had two meetings so far. Among others that attended this meeting were Hon. Cecil Cocker (Tongan Consulate General), Mr. Talo Mahu'inga (President of Kainga Tonga USA Inc.), Rev. Maile Koloto (President of Tongan National Caucus of the United Methodist Church), President Stake Havili (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), Rev. Paula Ohuafi (Church of Tonga), Rev. Sione Mahe (Free Church of Tonga), and Pastor Vaka Taimani (Assemblies of God).
The meeting agreed to dedicate Sunday, August 23rd, as a National Day of Prayer and Mourning, by all Tongans living in the United States, for those directly affected by the "Princess Ashika" tragedy. All proceedings for the National Prayer Day are to be arranged by the church leaders and their respective congregations.
It was also decided that the most effective way to assist the victims' families is to help these families directly in Tonga. A Harvard-Oxford educated Tongan-American community leader and Project Director at the Institute for Scientific Analysis, Sione K. Tupouniua was therefore assigned to leave for Tonga immediately on a fact-finding mission on behalf of the Tongan communities in the U.S. He plans to interview the victims' families throughout Tonga to find out the most effective way that the Tongan communities in the U.S can help. Mr. Tupouniua is confirmed to leave for Tonga, August 20th.
Furthermore, the fundraising appeal for a "Princess Ashika Relief Fund" is to be put into effect immediately. A new bank account has been opened to receive contributions. The account information is as follows:
Name of Account: Kainga Tonga USA Princess Ashika
Relief Fund Account Number: 05362-71306
Name of Bank: Bank of America
4054 Macarthur Blvd
Oakland, Ca 94619
Phone: (510) 649 6600
If you wish to donate using a credit/debit card please call the branch-office number (510) 649 6600 to assist you in making your contribution. Further enquiries on this can be made to Ms. Lusia Saulala (510) 479 7817, Rev. Maile Koloto (510) 823 3227, and Mr. Talo Mahu'inga (650) 834 1111.
Western Union has been approached to provide their services as colleting agents for those who do not have easy access to Bank of America. Details on this matter will be released once finalized.
The meeting requested that contributions to the fund be initiated on Sunday August 23rd (National Prayer Day) by Tongan churches through their Sunday-church-collections. Employers and co-workers of Tongan-Americans are also invited to participate in this fundraising effort.
For additional information please contact the e-mail address below to receive up-to-date Questions & Answers on the entirety of the "Princess Ashika" Tragedy.
Contact Name: Sione K Tupouniua Email: sionekt [at] yahoo [dot] com
Phone: (USA) 650- 834. 5220 (Tonga) 676- 22697 or 7749310. Tongan-American, 20/08/09.