October 17, 2008

Sister of Mercy Addresses UN Gathering

Senolita being blessed by participants of MGC Bridging the Gap Conference prior to addressing the UN Gathering

Address by Sr Senolita Vakata rsm National Director of Caritas Tonga at the Eradication of Poverty Day at the United Nations 17th October 2008


  • The Chairperson
  • Distinguished Delegates
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

Greetings to you all! And Malo e Lelei!

I find it an honour and a great privilege to be given this opportunity to address this august gathering on the important topic of ‘Poverty Eradication’ I bring the greetings from all the members of our Mercy International Association, which is the organization of all our leaders of Mercy Congregations, Institutes and Federations throughout the world.

The members of our Association share the passion of our Foundress, Catherine McAuley, to being Mercy to people to people who are poor, sick and uneducated, and this is the very reason that brings me her for these three precious minutes of intervention.

I speak not only as a religious member of the Mercy Sisters but also as the national Director of Caritas Tonga, one of the 192 members of the Caritas Confederation.

Hardship and Poverty in Tonga

I speak on the topic of ‘Poverty Eradication’ from the context and representing the poor people of my beloved island home Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific, which is made up of small islands, scattered over a vast sea area of the Pacific Ocean.

The poverty challenges we face are very much the same as our sister small island states in other regions of the world.

Poverty has many faces and in poverty alleviation one gives dignity to others.

In these three minutes, I will tell you a story about a group of people who are most often forgotten, ignored and neglected in my country – the widows. I, too, am a daughter of a widow.

‘Ilaisaane Sione is a widow with three children. She believed in good education for her children. She decided to take her children to the main island in order to find work to look after her children and provide them with further education. She is unskilled and it took her a longer time to find a job, particularly as they are from the furthest island. Her family has been discriminated against and mocked by others because they come from the remotest island, Niua Fo’ou.

Senolita addressing the UN Gathering

They have been moving from one place to another looking for somewhere to live and to work. This is difficult for the children and their mother. Then the oldest daughter got married which was hard for ‘Ilaisaane. She needed cultural materials for the wedding, but she had nothing of the sort, being a poor Tongan woman. ‘Ilaisaane worked hard to feed the household but no one acknowledged her struggle to keep the family together. Poverty and lack of a place to live destroy and separate families. When you have no work and don’t have a secure place to live, you are less recognized in the society.

‘Ilaisaane’s life is difficult. She needs a safe shelter and a good job to help her feed the family and send the children to school. Her situation speaks a lot about the situations of solo parents and young people who seek jobs to make ends meet. My people need social security.

International day for the Eradication of Poverty Banner

There are many other issues that reveal poverty in my home of Tonga. These are some of the main ones:

  • Very inadequate low family income
  • Migration
  • Youth unemployment and social problems
  • Natural disasters and climate change

But I have been given three minutes and there is no time to explain the impact of these on my people.

Concluding remarks

Chairperson – I thank you for allowing me this few minutes to briefly touch on poverty alleviation of my people in Tonga, speaking as a religious member of the Mercy Sisters of the world and also as the National Director of Caritas Tonga, one of the 192 members of the Caritas Confederation.


Ofa atu

Sr Senolita Vakata rsm
National Director of Caritas Tonga

October 2008

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