Two Northland nurses are giving up two weeks of their annual leave to head to Tonga on a self-funded trip, to support people with disabilities in Nukualofa.

The trip will be a first for Te Atawhai Beirne, who will join her builder husband, Simon, who has been seven times previously.

Fellow nurse Jono Anderton has done the trip five times with his family and says every time it makes them feel very humble.

Anderton and Beirne are renal nurses for Northland District Health Board.


"It's amazing that they can survive with so little, and they are happy with whatever we can do for them," Anderson said.

"Two years ago we visited a home that we'd previously built, and they roasted a pig for us. We were so embarrassed because it would've cost them so much, but it was an honour for them to do this for us."

Anderton said the experience had been especially beneficial for his children. His daughter Zara had been inspired to become a nurse after seeing her parents build homes and use their medical skills to help out.

A home in Tonga that will soon boast a wheelchair ramp thanks to the efforts of two Northland nurses. Photo / Supplied
A home in Tonga that will soon boast a wheelchair ramp thanks to the efforts of two Northland nurses. Photo / Supplied

A team of nine people from Renew Church and Calvary Chapel make the trip every two years, working in partnership with the Mango Tree Centre, a rehabilitation centre that provides free physiotherapy, computer classes, counselling and recreational facility activities to disabled people and their families.

Over the years, they have built five houses for the community, but this year the focus is on building five wheelchair access ramps for people with disabilities.

Anderton's wife Jo is a podiatrist, and will also be taking some specialised equipment and dressings with her to help a local podiatrist set up a clinic in Nukualofa.

It would be interesting, he said, to see how much the island had changed after Cyclone Gita last year.

The cyclone was labelled the worst storm to hit the country in 60 years, so they expect to be assisting with repair work.


The two churches have raised almost $10,000 to buy building materials on Tongatapu Island, along with some medical supplies.

• Anyone who would like to support the purchase of building supplies is invited to contact either church.