Support for the Ataera family
Donations will go to Papa Teina Ataera, who on Thursday lost his home and everything in it.International
On Thursday afternoon, the home that Papa Teina Ataera Snr built for his family 60 years ago, when he and the late Rangi Wichman were newlyweds, burnt to the ground.
The cause of the fire is unknown.
Papa Teina, 78, was in his Rarotonga home alone, napping, when smoke began to pour through the louvers in the room where he was sleeping. Everyone else who was living in the house until Thursday -- two of his sons, two of his grandchildren, and one of his great-grandchildren -- was at school or work.
Minutes earlier, Papa Teina’s son Daniel had left to pick up the kids. Papa Teina laid down.
“And then I heard a loud bang and I woke up,” he recalls. “I start calling to Daniel, I said Daniel! Daniel! I was half asleep, and there’s no Daniel, so I call Ken next door and while I’m calling I am covered with smoke.”
Tom Marsters Jnr, who was building next door, saw the smoke and flames and sprinted toward them. He found Papa Teina, who walks slowly these days, struggling to flee, picked up both the old man and his walker, and carried them away. When Daniel returned from picking up the kids from Arorangi School, just minutes down the road, his childhood home had vanished.
Papa Teina began building the home with a $200 loan. He took out another $200 loan for the windows. With no building experience, but with a steely determination and the work ethic of a man who rests only on the Sabbath, he slowly assembled a seven-bedroom house. Over the years, eight children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew up in that house; they all recall shooting hoops on the cracked concrete, riding their bicycles in the grass, and enjoying carefree Cook Islands childhoods.
Papa Teina and his wife returned home in 2013 after spending years in New Zealand. Rangi, the love of his life, died in 2018; her grave, sheltered by a roof, was unaffected by Thursday’s fire.
Relatives overseas are feeling the heartache of being unable to send clothing and bedding to Rarotonga because of travel restrictions related to Covid-19 and the limited space on planes and ships.
Asked what his family needs right now, Papa Teina is quiet.
“Money and prayers,” Kiri Ataera, his daughter-in-law, responds on his behalf.
“We’re just really grateful for all of the help that we’re getting,” she says. “So, so many people are offering their time and their skills and their machinery and we really appreciate it.”
“The house is flat on the ground,” Papa Teina says, his voice cracking. “All burned down. But something good will come out of this.”
All donations will go directly into Papa Teina’s bank account.
Rachel Reeves' involvement (page creator)
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Donations will go to Papa Teina Ataera, who on Thursday lost his home and everything in it.
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This page was created on 23 May 2020 and closes on 22 Nov 2020.