When Sister of Mercy Monika Mo’ale began her Home Economics classes at Takuilau College in Tonga early in 2009, she had scarcely any resources to call on.

Girls in her Forms 1 and 3 classes were required to bring what they needed from home for cooking and sewing. “This was very difficult,” she recalls. But by the second and third terms, things had changed.

“Instead of one stove, we now have four available. We’ve replaced two old sewing machines with new ones, and we’ve bought new cooking and sewing equipment. Our students are able to put all this to good use.”

Much of the help came from Villa Maria College in Christchurch, which Monica visited in March. She spent a professional development day with Winsome Bryce who is in charge of Food Technology at the college.

She was also a guest at an awareness-raising breakfast, organised by Villa students to focus on the UN’s millennium development goals, aimed at lifting people out of poverty and hunger.

Villa Maria students raised over $3000 for new stoves, plus another $800 worth of Home Economics equipment bought by Monika on a shopping expedition in Christchurch.

“It has made such a difference,” Monika reports. “Students in each class are now able to work in small groups of four at the same time. Before, we had to ask other teachers to let their students skip their subject, because there was only one stove available.

“Girls plant their own root crops; our kumara will be ready for harvest in November. They also spend time cutting and preparing pandanus leaves for making handcrafts.

“We hope to do some fund-raising ourselves with a bazaar in late November. Each class will try to raise $500; the money will support our requirements for next year.”

Meanwhile Monika has launched a project on caring for the Earth, with a roadside clean-up day and classes organised to create their own organic compost. Students at Takuilau College have learnt how to ‘recycle, re-use and reduce.’

A gift from Villa Maria’s principal Mary Lynch has sponsored a garden art competition for Monika’s Form Four Religious Education class, on the theme of caring for the environment.

Visiting Tonga soon after the tsunami that wrecked havoc in the region, two of the Congregation’s leadership team took a suitcase of gifts from St Catherine’s College in Kilbirnie, packed with stationery, class texts and surprises, including skipping ropes and balls.

Other support has included a donation of $1000 from St Mary’s School in Northcote for resources and materials for Forms 1 and 2, and nearly $800 from the Christchurch branch of the Timaru Mercy Past Pupils Association, for books and resources for Takuilau College’s senior English classes.

Reprinted from Mana Atawhai Mercy at Work 2009