A family who lost everything when their home was destroyed in a Māngere church fire say they are doing good, and in the process of finding a new permanent home.
Sateki Vehikite, his wife Mele Vehikite, and their three children lived in housing in the back section of Akoteu Faka-Kalisitiane Ko Namoa Church in Māngere Bridge when an overnight blaze burnt the temporary accommodation to ash.
His family of five from Tonga were amongst 18 who had nowhere to stay and nothing but the clothes on their back after the blaze.
But two months after the tragedy, Sateki Vehikite said they had been overwhelmed with donations, had found emergency housing, and were back on their feet.
He was grateful his family were not in the accommodation at the time of the fire because they were staying with his mother, like they normally did half the week.
“In the morning I can see on Facebook the house is all [on] fire,” he said.
“It’s very bad, and I feel sorry for the people staying there because I’m lucky I wasn’t there.”
Vehikite’s family stayed in the church’s hall for three weeks while support services looked for a place to house them and the 13 other survivors.
He said donations of food, water and clothing flooded in, and before the new year the church’s spokesperson Frank Kaloi helped set them up in emergency housing in Māngere.
“I got this house before Christmas, that’s why I’m saying thank you very much to Frank and the team to organise everything else for use before Christmas. This is my Christmas,” he said.
“At the same time I thank God for everything else, for organising for the people to come and help us and make us stay in a good house in a good place.”
The homeless families were treated to a picnic at Long Bay Beach, which he said improved their mood and helped take their mind of the fire.
Vehikite said things had turned around, and the blaze which destroyed his home was something his family could move on from.
“I don’t want to think back to the fire, because I look forward.
“My family is going good now, we are going happy, my kids are going happy,” he said.
Sateki and Mele Vehikite repeatedly thanked the church team and social services for the hard work they put in to support the survivors.
Sateki Vehikite said they were in the process of having interviews with Housing New Zealand to find a permanent place to live for his family.
By Jordan Dunn of rnz.co.nz