East-West Center President Presents Tonga Red Cross with Eruption Recovery Funds Raised by Center Community


HONOLULU (July 21, 2022)—During last week’s Pacific Islands Forum summit events in Fiji, East-West Center President Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum presented Tonga Red Cross Vice President Drew Havea with a check for $20,000 raised by the Center community to assist with recovery from Tonga’s devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami early this year.  

“These funds are symbolic of our close feelings for and connection to Tonga, our Pacific neighbor and respected friend,” Vares-Lum said. “We offer our deepest aloha as you continue recovery efforts in your beloved islands.” 

EWC President Suzanne Vares-Lum giving names and messages from donors to Tonga Red Cross VP David Havea
EWC President Suzanne Vares-Lum sharing names and messages from donors with Tonga Red Cross VP David Havea

More than 200 individual donors contributed to the relief fund, including EWC alumni in Hawai‘i, Asia and Pacific Islands, as well as members of the Center’s staff. Their names and messages of support were placed inside a wooden vessel that was also presented to Havea, who expressed his gratitude for both the funds and for the nearly 400 EWC alumni from Tonga who have benefitted from the Center’s programs.  

At Havea’s recommendation, the donated funds are slated to go toward rebuilding homes that were lost in the tsunami caused by the offshore Jan. 15 eruption. The disaster affected more than 80 percent of the country’s population of about 105,000 and displaced more than 2,000 residents.