NewsLocal News


SLC woman starts fund to help Tongan people

Posted at 5:49 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 19:49:12-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The island nation of Tonga continues to pick up the pieces after sustaining damage from a volcanic eruption and tsunami last weekend.

WATCH: Utahns still waiting to hear from loved ones in Tonga following volcanic eruption

Salt Lake City's Rebekah Thacker is half Tongan and still has family and friends on the island. One of her friends passed along a video on Facebook, moments after the volcanic eruption.

"To watch them filming and the sky is darkening, you hear a big blast, and then the sky just gets progressively darker, and darker and darker until it is pitch black," said Thacker.

Thacker shared the images shown as she went step-by-step through the video.

"They are going through their house and showing you the ash that is falling on the ground, and you know this is all happening in real time, so at that point it hasn’t been completely covered, but you see stuff is falling, stuff is accumulating inside of the house.

"You see people running as soon as it starts getting dark, because stuff is falling from the sky and it sounds like rain, so without the context of knowing a volcano had erupted, you would probably think it just started raining, but it is actually the ash falling from the sky."

It is those kinds of images that Thacker, who lived on the island for two years, says are overwhelming.

"I can’t imagine what that would feel like to be there in person, and not knowing what is going to happen next."

Since Saturday, Thacker says communication with her family and friends has been minimal.

"We know that they are safe, we know they are trying to get back to their home, but their home is located right on that western shore, where it was most impacted on the main island."

Thacker and her sister decided to step up and help, starting a GoFundMe page as they look for donations and funds that would go directly to those impacted in Tonga.


"We knew we just wanted to help in some way, and we have since decided to partner with the humanitarian aide with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they have direct ties with the people in Tonga there," said Thacker.

The hope being, Thacker said, to raise as much money as possible.