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Photos: 45,000 Alaskan books for Tonga's first library

Kato Ha'unga with some of her 40,000 books, palletized and ready for shipment to Tonga. The books will be for Tonga's first library. Feb 7, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Kato Ha'unga with some of her 40,000 books, being palletized for shipment to Tonga with the help of Mormon missionaries. The books will be for Tonga's first library. Feb 7, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Kato Ha'unga with some of her 40,000 books, palletized and ready for shipment to Tonga. The books will be for Tonga's first library. Feb 7, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Kato Ha'unga's uncle and cousins, who inspired her to start the library project, in the Ha'apai Islands of Tonga.
Courtesy Kato Ha'unga
The community hall on the Ha'apai Islands of Tonga, which was donated as the future home of the Northern Lights Library, a project by Anchorage resident Kato Ha'unga.
Courtesy Kato Ha'unga
Kato Ha'unga, with the nearly 30,000 books that she has collected to start Tonga's first library. October 9, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
The community hall on the Ha'apai Islands of Tonga, which was donated as the future home of the Northern Lights Library, a project by Anchorage resident Kato Ha'unga.
Courtesy Kato Ha'unga
The community hall on the Ha'apai Islands of Tonga, which was donated as the future home of the Northern Lights Library, a project by Anchorage resident Kato Ha'unga.
Courtesy Kato Ha'unga
Kato Ha'unga, with the nearly 30,000 books that she has collected to start Tonga's first library. October 9, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Craig Medred

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.

READ MORE: Alaskan’s dream for library in Tonga finally becoming reality