Latu Cecilia Tausinga arrived in New Zealand on what was supposed to be a three-month trip to celebrate a work milestone.  

Cecilia is a corporal in His Majesty’s Armed Forces,  theTongan army, and has spent the past six years training hard to reach her current position.  

“I decided to come here after my six years was finished, and before the next three years of training begins,” explains Cecilia. “I got here on 19 March.” 

She could never have anticipated that her flight would be the last commercial flight to land in New Zealand from Tonga for many months. On the day that Cecilia arrived in Aotearoa, there were just 28 cases of COVID-19 in the country. Just four days after she arrived the whole country went into COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.  

Since lockdown there have been no flights available for Cecilia to return home – the one thing she desperately wants to do.  

“Coronavirus, no money, no job, missing home. Almost all my family is in Tonga, they do want me back,” she says.  

“I just have to wait for the border [to open]. The government is just taking Tongan’s from Fiji, but not from any other countries.”  

Unlike many of the other people who have become stranded in New Zealand on temporary visas, Cecilia has some friends and family here who  have been very supportive. But the longer that her stay in New Zealand is drawn out, the more difficult relying on her loved ones has become.  

It was through friends that Cecilia found out about the support available to her through Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri

“One of my friends sent a message with information to help me if I need it. They also helped me to apply. I was so happy to receive the email that my application was approved.” 

The Red Cross team in Auckland helped Cecilia access food and winter warmer vouchers, which she says she will use to buy warm clothes for the New Zealand winter she had not expected to be here for.  

Though there is still no flight in sight for Cecilia, the support through Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri has relieved some of her stress.   

“I was so happy to have this help.” 

Cecilia with vouchers provided through Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri. 

What is Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri?

Working with Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs, who is managing the New Zealand Government’s Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 Programme, New Zealand Red Cross is delivering in-kind assistance to help foreign nationals meet basic needs, such as food and accommodation.

Find out more here. 

How can I apply?

People who are in need and on temporary (work, student, visitor) and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas can check their eligibility and apply through The programme will run for three months.

To find out what support you might be eligible for, head to