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FEATURE STORYNovember 15, 2023

Set a goal, keep going: recovering from a tsunami to build a bright future in Tonga


  • For the people of ‘Eua island, in the east of the Kingdom of Tonga, the island’s wharf is a lifeline; their connection to the rest of the country, and world.
  • When the port was hit by repeated cyclones and king tides in 2021, and then by a massive tsunami in January 2022, small businesses like the one owned by local 'Aloine Havea suffered greatly.
  • A World Bank project supported the restoration of the wharf on ‘Eua, helping the island’s community to recover swiftly.
WB-CRT Aloine

“The good wharf really helped the development of this island… It really raised the standard of living,” says ‘Aloine Havea (pictured), who runs a store on ‘Eua island, Tonga. (Tom Perry/World Bank)

‘Aloine Havea, a caring mother of five and savvy business owner from ‘Eua Island, Tonga, exemplifies resilience and determination. Together with her husband Andrew, affectionately known as Friendly, they run AJ’s Store & Finance. Opened in 2019, the store quickly became a local hub, leading to an expansion within a year. “You have to believe in yourself,” says ‘Aloine. “Set your goal, and … when you achieve your goal, you have to do another one.

However, their thriving business faced a critical challenge when ‘Eua’s wharf, essential for receiving supplies from Tongatapu, was badly damaged, first by a succession of storms and King Tides and then by a tsunami triggered by the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai undersea volcano eruption in January 2022.

The impact on the family business was immense. “[The] wharf is really, really important to us because we really need the big ship to board on the wharf so we can get our stuff from Tongatapu,”

‘Aloine recalls the struggle of goods having to be transferred onto small boats offshore – a very dangerous daily operation, “The big ship was not able to come over to the wharf… Not only [was it] very hard [it was] very dangerous.”

With funding through the Tonga component of the World Bank-supported Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program – a program to support Pacific countries make their transport infrastructure more resilient – the wharf was restored by the Tongan government and most facilities were re-opened in later in 2022. Communities and families across ‘Eua were able to get their lives and businesses back up and running. For ‘Aloine, this meant being able to bring in supplies to help the recovery effort on the island.

And now that supply is back on track, ‘Aloine and Andrew’s next plan is to add new services to their business. “We already plan to run a gas station. This year, we [are] currently working on that project,”  ‘Aloine said.


“The reason why we do a lot of sacrifice to make this grow, it’s just because of my family. We have planned for our children, where we can send them to school [to get] a good education,” says ‘Aloine Havea (pictured, right with her daughter), who runs a store on ‘Eua island, Tonga. (Tom Perry/World Bank)

Despite facing many challenges, ‘Aloine is determined to succeed so she can support her family, especially their five children; the lifeblood of their business. AJ’s Enterprizes is named after their youngest son, Andrew Junior, and the income they are generating is putting the children through school.

“The reason why we sacrifice a lot to make this grow is because of my family. We have planned for our children, where we can send them to school [to] have a good education [and] help them and their future family, where they can rely on themselves and know how to earn their own living.”

The plan is working. The success of their business has helped ‘Aloine and Friendly achieve their greatest goal so far, supporting their eldest daughter through school and on to University in Hawaii. “I was so happy when she received her letter of acceptance, that she's going to the university because we planned for it so many years …and she's there!”

It’s not just ‘Aloine and Friendly’s family that is benefitting from increased development on ‘Eua. As a lifelong resident of the island, ‘Aloine has seen many positive changes made possible by an increasingly connected world.

“The good wharf really helped the development of this island because it's really helpful for shipping … the stuff for construction,” ‘Aloine said. “It really raised the standard of living because … people can easily ship over what they want from Tongatapu to ‘Eua.”

But over her lifetime, ‘Aloine has also observed new challenges, like the changing climate on the island, reflecting, “We recognize it lately, something [is changing]. The cold season that we used to have in my island; it doesn’t feel cold anymore.”

With the wharf redevelopment factoring in the likely impacts of climate change on ‘Eua to make it more resilient to climate impacts, ‘Aloine’s business and plans for her future are less likely to be disrupted again. And like the rest of her community, she is hopeful about the future.

“Tongan people; they are brave enough to earn their living … whatever situation they are at,” ‘Aloine said. “Whatever comes, they can endure it. That's what make them really a Tongan.”

This project is part of the World Bank-supported Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program. The $338.6 million program, which supports governments in six countries through eight projects, is upgrading vital transport infrastructure – roads, maritime sites (ports, wharves, and jetties) and an airport – to help make communities more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change.

The entire program is funded through grants and credits delivered through the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries.


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