A little history of Tonga and Capitola Aptos Rotary Club
By David Campbell
 
Last weekend Santa Cruz appeared on our TV news coverage of the tsunami that was triggered by a volcanic eruption in Tonga.  The coverage included a story about the tsunami hitting the Santa Cruz marina. This prompted me to contact our webmaster Mardi Padilla with just a bit of Capitola-Aptos Rotary history that you might find interesting which connects our Capitola Aptos Rotary Club with Tonga. 
 
Many members of the club will remember that in 2004 a team of twelve Aptos High School Interactors went to Tonga to carry out a hands-on service project.  They spent a week in there, where they set up a computer lab at St Andrews High School located in the capital city of Nukuʻalofa.  As always, Capitola-Aptos Rotary Club was actively involved.  The club was instrumental in acquiring about 15 computers which the Interactors and adult chaperones carried as their 2nd piece of baggage (in the good old days when you were allowed 2 bags).  And the club was very active in supporting the Interactor’s fundraising efforts to get the team to Tonga. 
 
Not only did the Interactors set up the computers, but they spent much of their time painting the classroom that was designated for the computer lab.  These were the first computers in the school.   The project co-ordinator at St Andrews High School was a super Peace Corps volunteer named Todd Hicks. 
 
Further, the trip provided a significant cultural experience for the Aptos HS Interactors.  They truly “interacted” with the Tongan culture in many ways.  But the most significant cultural experience probably occurred when the team split up, with each girl spending a weekend in the home of a St Andrews student. 
 
 
The Tonga project received the D5170 “Interact Project of the Year” award, and the “Interactor of the Year” award went to Annemarie Estess (in the pink top in photo #3)
 
As to the current situation in Tonga, you probably know as much as I do.  There is very little news coming out of Tonga because the only undersea fiber cable to the country was cut by the volcanic eruption.  This cut off all communication except for a trickle of contact via satellite.  But we do know that the damage was extensive with many coastal villages destroyed and widespread flooding and major damage to the infrastructure, and a critical shortage of drinking water.  Fortunately, it appears that there was little loss of life… only 3 confirmed so far.  NZ has dispatched an Air Force surveillance plane which confirmed the extent of the destruction, but they could not land because the airport runway is covered with thick ash.  Another NZ plane was dispatched with emergency supplies, and the NZ Navy was sending a ship which has a much larger capacity for relief supplies. 
 
The volcano was on an uninhabited island 20 miles from the main island.  But the tsunami hit several small nearby islands as well as the main island of Tongatapu where the capital is located.  St. Andrews High School is located some distance from the seafront, so the school might have escaped major damage… but it’s only a guess. I know flooding occurred widely in Nukuʻalofa.
 
I’m sure there are several 30-something Aptos High graduates whose thoughts today are with the people of Tonga.
 
Finally, one last tidbit for fun that will make you a Tonga expert.  The name of the country is mispronounced by almost everyone in the US.  There is no hard “g” in “Tonga”.  The “g” is soft… as in song or long.  So, Tonga is pronounced “Tong-ah” with only one soft “g”