I arrived in Tonga in 1973 as Peace Corps volunteer supervising a TB and Typhoid vaccination campaign throughout the islands. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos, Chapter, An Island Paradise, about the my work and the wonderful people of Tonga.
Despite the general good health of the population, I trained the district nurses in administering tuberculosis and typhoid vaccinations throughout the country. I reported directly to an Infection Control Physician who taught me everything I needed to know about my role in disease prevention. The Tongan government provided equipment, vaccines, and transport to complete our work, with great outcomes. My mission to be successful in a nursing role was fulfilled.

My three-bedroom mud and stick house in my remote village in Liberia seemed posh compared to my new digs in Tonga. I chuckled when my Tongan Corps Director drove me to my new home: a one-room thatched house with its exterior damaged from the roaming neighborhood pigs.

My house provided indoor utilities with a toilet, electricity, and running water, but no refrigerator or stove (only a primus burner). I slept on the cement floor with a woven mat, cushioned with folded layers of tapa cloth—the pounded local bark made into fabric. Despite my modest lodging, the ease of living on these islands was remarkable. It registered “five stars” as I never encountered snakes, cockroaches, spiders, malaria, runny belly, or any sickness for that matter. Best of all, no one ever asked me for loving-business. I was in paradise!

On January 15th 2022, everything changed in the small Island Kingdom. The underwater volcano, Hunga Tonga-Junga Ha’apai erupted spewing feet of ash over the main island and its force was felt by many including those living in New Zealand, Peru, and Alaska. Tsunami warnings were broadcast over the entire Pacific. Tonga lost communication for several days due to the ash and broken underwater communication cables. As photos and news began to come emerge, the physical damage was devastating, but the long term effects are the most concerning. Click on this link for the video update on 1/18 from the Washington Post. (View the first video only).

I am a member of Friends of Tonga (FOT) and they have set up a donation link. Please consider a donation of any amount to help the people of Tonga. I made my donation today honoring my Tongan mother and father who have since passed. Their children all reside in New Zealand.

Feel free to leave a comment in the REPLY box below and donate if you can to help the People of Tonga. Thank you for reading.

2 thoughts on “Tragedy in Tonga

  1. Your book is the gift that keeps on giving…I am a good friend of Velma Shipley and the mother of Rich Trout a professor at the University of the Southwest in Hobbs, NM that you had a Zoom class with his Advanced Composition Class and changed at least one student’s life as you and she connected over her mission trips to Africa. Rich is jealous that I will get to meet you at Velma’s Reception in Feb. He and his son were here for Christmas break, so he missed meeting you by a month or so. Thanks again for your gift to us all. I purchased 4 copies of your book and shared them all over the country with friends, at least 20, in all. Looking forward to meeting you soon in Gold Canyon. We all really enjoy your updates. Mary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Mary, I look forward to meeting you in person. You have become one of my biggest fans and I thank you for speading the word about my book. I am friends with your son on FB and saw the great photo of him with his son during his visit with you. I, too, am sorry I missed him. I’m glad I was able to help one of his students to tell her stories of Africa. My memoir chapter entitled, One Person at a Time, tells of just that…we can do great things helping one person at a time.
      Stay well, Mary, and I will see you in about a month. If you bring your book, I will sign it and I will bring extras to purchase. All the best.

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