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Rancho Buena Vista High students organize Tonga relief drive

Following Tonga's devastating volcanic eruption, the tsunami warning was the biggest worry for many people near our coast. But KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne tells us a group of local high school students worried more about the people of Tonga and have organized a donation drive.

A set of brothers and sisters at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista is collecting relief supplies for the people of Tonga.

Siona, Talia, Muele, and Viliami Thompson are the siblings organizing the initiative.

The island nation of Tonga was devastated after an underwater volcano erupted on Jan. 15.

“After we heard about it, it was just heavy on all of our minds because something so disastrous happened to such a small island,” said Siona Thompson, a senior at RBV.

She said news of the catastrophe hit closer to home for them because they have family in Tonga.

“Our family was sending in videos of everything destroyed," Siona said. "It was heartbreaking. It was hard to just sit here and think about how our family is out there suffering.”

With the help of their English teacher, Scott Bailey, the Thompson siblings quickly organized a donation drive.

The students are collecting cases of water, feminine hygiene products, medical supplies, masks, diapers, and nonperishable food items.

“We're doing this until Thursday and we’re having a drop-off before and after school in the parking lot," Talia Thompson said. "We're also having it at the Handel's in Carlsbad, and you can drop off donations right there.”

Donations can be dropped off at Rancho Buena Vista High School between now and Thursday morning.

Another collection will be held at Handel's Ice Cream in Carlsbad Village on Wednesday.

All the donations received will be taken to a cargo ship in Long Beach for transportation to Tonga on Thursday afternoon.

“SF Shipping out of Long Beach will take the supplies on a cargo ship. It will take several weeks to get to the islands," said Scott Bailey, the teacher helping with the drive. "Once in Tonga, NEMO will take care of the distribution."

National Emergency Management Office, or NEMO, is the Tongan version of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he said.

Siona said she and her siblings are happy to see the generosity of the community, no matter the distance.

“I want people to take away that you can make a difference wherever you are," she said. "I always thought, growing up, I had to be older, I had to be an adult, to do something like this. But I think when the opportunity comes, you should take it.”

Several Rancho Buena Vista High School Clubs, ASB, staff and administration members, are also helping with the initiative.

The Thompson siblings said if this drive is successful, they will organize a second one.