The Northern Lights Library Tonga's First Public Library
BUILDING TONGA'S FIRST PUBLIC LIBRARY FROM HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD
The story of the Northern Lights Library is one of people all over the world coming together to make the extraordinary possible.
The story begins with Kato Ha'unga, an Alaska woman with strong ties to family and friends in her homeland of Tonga. Following a devastating tsunami in 2009, she resolved to do something with lasting impact for the people of Tonga. Now she is working to create the first Tongan public library, book by book, on the hub island of Ha'apei.
She began collecting book donations, and Alaskans responded generously. Kato has books stacked everywhere. She has heaps of books in her home and boxes more in her car. She outgrew a donated storage space at Anchorage's Northway Mall and has since moved to a dedicated storage unit. To date, Kato has collected over 50,000 books for the Northern Lights Library, and paid over $8,500 of her own money in storage fees.
As Kato's book collection grew, so did her network of supporters. Back in Tonga, the community of Ha'apai Tongoleleka offered an unused community center to house the library. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski saw a news article about the library project and connected Kato with the U.S. Navy, who offered to ship the books from San Diego to Tonga. Bristol Industries soon stepped in to help, palletizing the books and bringing in Carlile Transportation and TOTE to transport the books from Alaska to California in time for the transocean departure in March 2013.
All the pieces are in place to make Kato's dream of Tonga's first public library a reality -- but the same tsunami that inspired the Northern Lights Library left lasting damage to the community center that will house it. The building is in need of extensive repairs before the library can open, estimated to cost $50,000 U.S. dollars. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to help offset those costs.
The Northern Lights Library is a 100% volunteer organization; all donations will go directly to support essential building materials, labor costs (we hope to use volunteers whenever possible) and Kato's airfare to oversee the library opening in Tonga. Every donation is appreciated, and all donors will be recognized in a wall mural in the completed Northern Lights Library.
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