Kato Ha'unga had long made a tradition out of bringing books, magazines, postcards -- any slice of life in Alaska -- home with her whenever she returned to Tonga. She said this is how her family members traveled, since many of them were confined to one of the 176 islands that make up the country. Getting around to communities in Tonga is much like traveling in Alaska, where many places are only accessible by boat or plane.
So Kato began gathering books to send home. The idea quickly blossomed into a grander plan, to open the first public library ever in the nation of Tonga. Now, she has a building lined up on the island of Ha'apai, and a potential staff. The building will be part library, part kindergarten.
And now, three years after the back-to-back earthquakes and resulting tsunami devastated Tonga and left many residents homeless, Ha'unga also has those 45,000 books. And they are about to be sent to Tonga for that country's first-ever public library.