‘Amazing’ support for fire victims

Tuesday June 02, 2020 Written by Rachel Reeves Published in Local
Tengaru and Elijah Ataera playing marbles while the grownups clean up after a fire that burnt the Ataera family home to the ground last week. TURAMA PHOTOGRAPHY 20052913 Tengaru and Elijah Ataera playing marbles while the grownups clean up after a fire that burnt the Ataera family home to the ground last week. TURAMA PHOTOGRAPHY 20052913

A week after the house he built burnt to the ground, Papa Teina Ataera Snr is so overwhelmed by the aro’a extended to his family that he can’t finish a thank you without getting choked up.

“It’s amazing, how the people are coming with their donations,” he says. “We don’t know how to repay.”

Last Thursday, in a fire deemed not suspicious by authorities, Papa Teina and the others living with him – two of his sons, two of his grandchildren, and one of his great-grandchildren – lost their house and everything in it.

Pulled from the fire by a builder who was working next door, Papa Teina watched as everything he owned became ash: his pareu shirts, the black leather shoes he wears to church on Saturday mornings, sheets, sofas, TV, telephone, photographs of his late wife Rangi Wichman and the life they spent raising eight children in Kavera and South Auckland. Pages of his Maori Bible fluttered around the yard.

Word of the fire began to travel through the coconut wireless, Cook Islands News, and the internet. A photograph of two of Papa Teina’s grandchildren – Soul, 11, and Elijah, 8 – was shared on dozens of Facebook pages.

Within days, the family received so many kids’ clothes that arrangements had to be made to send some of them to the outer islands. (Air Rarotonga’s managing director, Ewan Smith, and JetX cargo manager, Tekena Teamoke, offered to transport them for free, as they often do).

People bought the kids uniforms, backpacks, and lunchboxes.

“We got cool stuff,” says Elijah, who didn’t understand for a few days that everything he had was gone.

The Utia family offered beachfront bungalows, unoccupied because of the novel coronavirus, to temporarily house Papa Teina and family; the kids are staying with their uncle, aunty, and cousins.

Infrastructure Cook Islands covered the cost of the T&M trucks that picked up the rubble and Tina Iro sent tip trucks from her family’s quarry. Inmates were dropped off to help.

Neighbour Sammy Mataroa fed the labourers. A team from the Ministry of Internal Affairs dropped off groceries. People showed up with tinned food, cash in envelopes, towels, sheets, toiletries. Two dropped off beds.

Employees at Kavera Central, the shop in front of the Ataera home, sold nearly $700 worth of cooked sausages and donated all proceeds. Infrastructure Cook Islands sold food yesterday to raise money.

Prime Foods hosted a sausage sizzle on Saturday, and plans to do so for several Saturdays. The Cafe in Avarua is donating a dollar from every cup of coffee purchased this week to the Ataera family. Charlie’s Cafe is organising a donation too. Arorangi School presented Papa Teina with some money and clothing.

Despite the economic downturn occurring all over the world, people on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, in New Zealand and Australia and America, donated more than $18,000 through a Givealittle page. Most of them know the Ataeras; some do not.

“The generosity is overwhelming,” says Papa Teina’s youngest son, Sam. “Thank you everyone, so much.”

“We got no clothes and now too many clothes,” Papa Teina says. “That’s really amazed me. It’s very touching. The whole island and the people. Thank you very much. Heaps of people coming around.”

Money is still being gratefully received through the following link: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/support-for-the-ataera-family. Cook Islands Building Supplies and CITC Building Centre are also accepting money toward building materials for the Ataeras. Donations are being used to build a small home.

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