‘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.