Tonga Leitis Association Cyclone Gita Relief Fund

For: Tonga Leitis Association
Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga
Organizer: Tonga Leitis Association
Tonga Leitis Association Cyclone Gita Relief Fund (Tonga Leitis Association)
of $10,000 goal
100% Complete
Raised by 104 donors

The Story

Tropical Cyclone Gita, the worst storm to hit the South Pacific in 60 years, slammed into Tonga on February 12, bringing down electricity lines, smashing homes and churches, and leveling fruit trees and crops vital to the nation's livelihood.  

The Tonga Leitis Association drop-in centre, which serves as a shelter for LGBT youth rejected by their families and communities, suffered severe damage. 

While international aid agencies have started to respond, such crises render vulnerable gender and sexual minorities invisible and ignored.  

The Tonga Leitis Association is in urgent need of help to repair the roof that was torn off its centre and to provide emergency supplies and services to its members and their families who lost everything.  

All funds raised will go toward building materials, and the delivery of food, water, medical and other essential supplies.  Please help us restore and rebuild the lives of TLA members and the broader LGBTQI community in Tonga through these efforts.

No matter how large or small, every donation will make a difference in the lives of people in dire need.  THANK YOU for your support! 

The Tonga Leitis Association and its amazing members are also profiled in Leitis in Waiting, a new documentary film,  produced in association with Pacific Islanders in Communications, being released soon.  Learn more and follow the impact campaign HERE.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on April 16, 2018


Posted on April 16, 2018

"After cyclone, transgender Tongans hope movie will help build acceptance" - Reuters News - 14 April 2018 (with VIDEO)

By Umberto Bacchi LONDON, April 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A movie about transgender women fighting for acceptance in Tonga hopes to bring about change in the Pacific island nation - and help local activists start over after a cyclone smashed their main office, a leading gay rights campaigner said.

Leitis in Waiting, which has its European premiere at the Festival of Commonwealth Film in London on Sunday, follows Joey Mataele, a prominent transgender activist, as she organises a beauty pageant amid growing pressure from religious groups.

Gay sex and cross-dressing are illegal under colonial-era laws in Tonga - one of 36 Commonwealth members that criminalise same-sex activity, according to the Commonwealth Equality Network.

The legislation is rarely enforced but remains a threat to the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in a country where homosexuality is largely taboo, said Mataele, who is in London to promote the film.

"I believe that the importance of having this movie is to be able to change the minds of people," said the 54-year-old, who has close ties to the Tongan royal family.

"I (also) hope it will take the message to the British government - or even straight to Queen Elizabeth - that they are the ones that brought that colonial law we are suffering from to the Pacific and they should do something about it," she added.

Transgender women, locally known as fakaleitis, are culturally tolerated in Tonga, having historically performed household and ceremonial duties. But acceptance stops at the bedroom door, said Mataele.

Transgender women have taken the lead in campaigning for change in legislation, but face staunch resistance from conservative Christian evangelical groups - something that has created a poisonous environment, she said.

"We are residents of Tonga - we have a right to express what we are going through; we cannot just be doormats all the time," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

Directed by U.S.-based filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, the documentary won the special jury prize at the International Oceanian Film Festival in Tahiti in February and is to be released in Tonga later this year. 

"Films like Leitis in Waiting help humanise the lived experiences of LGBT people and challenge negative social attitudes," said Paul Dillane, executive director of LGBT rights group Kaleidoscope Trust.

Mataele hopes it will also boost donations to the Tonga Leitis Association.

The rights group was recently forced to spend most of its budget on rebuilding its centre, which also serves as a shelter for LGBT people shunned by their families, after it was hit by Cyclone Gita in February.

"We (only) have half a office now!" she quipped.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Posted on March 12, 2018


Posted on March 12, 2018

Greetings Friends of the TLA, as you can see here, the new roof is up, and the floor and walls are coming along. Thanks again for helping us to get the shelter back up and ready to serve our community!  Without you, it wouldn't have been possible.

Our online social media networks are:

Posted on March 5, 2018


Posted on March 5, 2018

Here's a glimpse of the progress being made in reparation of the TLA Drop-In Centre and LGBTI Youth Shelter... Thank you for helping make this possible!

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