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VSA in Tonga

Flag of Tonga

VSA has had a programme in the Kingdom of Tonga since 1965. Our volunteers have worked in education, health, economic development and agriculture. We completed our education work in 2005. In 2012 VSA started to place volunteers in assignments with a focus on economic development. Our Tonga programme is managed from our Wellington office.


Living and Working in Tonga


Language and culture

VSA assignments last up to two years, so local language training is important. VSA provides basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Housing and living conditions

Secure accommodation is provided for volunteers with basic furnishings, running water, a kitchen with gas or electric cooking as well as indoor bathroom facilities with a flush toilet. Volunteers have access to telephones, internet, restaurants, public transport systems and 24-hour power (although power outages are a regular occurrence). A ‘surge breaker’ or ‘spike buster’ is advisable to protect sensitive appliances from Tonga’s erratic power supply. Tonga has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. We advise our volunteers to boil drinking water, use a purifier or drink bottled water.

Dress standards

Tonga has a big expatriate community and most are used to seeing Western ways of dressing, with many locals dressing very similarly. However, it is important to remember that volunteers have a different motivation for living and working in Tonga from most expatriates. We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively. Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless is acceptable. Traditionally women must cover knees and elbows and men usually dress in pants or tupenu (cloth wrap skirt). Tongans generally swim fully clothed.

Traditional dress

The ta'ovala is a traditional woven mat worn by men and women over the tupenu (a single coloured wrap). It is formal attire and it shows respect and authority. There are different kinds of ta'ovala for different occasions. But the most common are made from the leaves of the pandanus tree.

Kafa is a braided rope, used as a belt to hold up the ta'ovala worn by both men and women. Traditionally it is made from the inner fibre of the coconut husk braided together strand by strand. Some kafa are made from human hair from a dead relative. This type of kafa is held in very high regard and treasured by the family.

Kiekie is worn around the waist by women only and can be very decorative. It is often made from the pandanus tree and can be best described as a belt with strands that hang down below the knee.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. Medical care is limited in Tonga, with Tonga’s main hospital (Vaiola Hospital) being a 10 minute ride from the capital, Nuku’alofa. While hospital staff are mostly well trained, the equipment and facilities are limited

As a volunteer, you would be covered under VSA’s medical insurance policy, and are required to undertake a medical examination (or complete a medical questionnaire for short-term volunteers) and have necessary inoculations before being approved to depart for the field.

Safety

VSA provides all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing that covers specific local issues prior to departure. In general, there are no problems moving around Tonga although you will be given a more detailed security briefing upon arrival. Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night.

Banking and finances

Banks in Tonga include, ANZ, Bank of Tonga and Westpac. Volunteers can open a local bank account once they arrive in Tonga where monthly living allowances are paid into. You will find ATMs in town with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards. Local currency is TOP - Tongan Pa'anga. Visit oanda.com for current exchange rates.

Town amenities

In town, there is a post office, travel agents, local businesses, as well as small shops, cafes and a supermarket selling imported food and a vegetable market with competitive prices. The NZ High Commission is also in the centre of town.

Cell phones and email

Tonga has two cellular providers, Digicel (Tonga) Limited and Tonga Communications Corporation (UCALL). Coverage is generally good in urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations. Internet connections are readily available at reasonable speeds and and internet cafes are available in town with wireless hotspots around businesses and hospitality complexes.

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In-country partner profile

Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme

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Meet Ryan Brown

An interview with Ryan Brown, Programme Manager (Polynesia)

Ryan is our Programme Manager for Polynesia.

Read more

Quick facts


  • The Kingdom of Tonga consists of around 176 islands but only 36 of the islands are inhabited. Around two-thirds of Tonga's population lives on the main island of Tongatapu.

  • Tonga is the last Polynesian monarchy. It never completely lost its indigenous governance. It became a British protectorate in 1900, but withdrew from the protectorate in 1970.

  • The economy is sustained by agriculture, fishing and the money sent home by Tongans living abroad, many of them in New Zealand.

  • Migrating humpback whales breed and calve in Tongan waters from June to November.

  • Tonga is a conservative Christian country.

  • There are some active volcanoes including Fonualei, Niuafo'ou, Late and Tofua.

  • Tonga has a Human Development Index rating of 100 (2014 UN Human Development Report).
Source: CIA Factbook , BBC country profile , UN Development Programme International human development indicators

See how this compares to NZ standards

NZ Quick Facts


  • New Zealand’s wildlife is dominated by an estimated 245 bird species. New Zealand has more flightless bird species than any other place on earth and no native land mammals except for bats.

  • Auckland is the biggest city. The other main centres are Hamilton, Wellington (the capital), Christchurch and Dunedin.

  • New Zealand has a Human Development Index rating of 6.

  • Polynesian settlers arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand around the 10th century. The first Europeans to visit the country were Dutch explorers led by Abel Tasman in 1642.

  • The Māori name for the country is Aotearoa: “land of the long white cloud.” The English name New Zealand comes from the Dutch Nieuw Zeeland, a region in the Netherlands.

  • In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi established British law and government, and was followed by warfare in the 1840s and 1860s as Māori sought to defend their lands and local authority. The country became a dominion of Britain in 1907 and became independent in

  • The official languages are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language.

  • New Zealand has more than 50 volcanoes, some of which are still active.

  • New Zealand has about 0.1% of the world’s population, but produces about 0.3% of the world’s material output.

Contact

VSA, PO Box 12246, Wellington 6144, NEW ZEALAND



Fay Moorfield

VSA volunteer profiles

Fay Moorfield – Marketing Adviser

Fay Moorfield is on a short-term volunteering assignment as Marketing Adviser with the Tonga Business Enterprise Centre. She will complete her assignment in August 2014. View Profile


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The Kingdom of Tonga is unique in the South Pacific in being the only country never colonised by a foreign power. It is also the only surviving monarchy in the Pacific with a royal family whose lineage dates back as far as 875AD. The population of 106,000 is over 95% Polynesian with 70% living on the main island of Tongatapu.

Tongans are ardent church-goers and religion plays a very large part in day-to-day life. For the largely Christian population, Sunday is celebrated as a strict Sabbath, enshrined so in the constitution. There is a Sunday trading ban with only essential services exempt.

TONGA page pic 1 TONGA page pic 2

What we’re doing in Tonga

 

A number of challenges face Tonga’s economic development, including its small domestic market, skills shortages, high cost of power and variable domestic transport services, low savings rates, high costs of doing business and high youth unemployment. Through assignments working on banking, small business enterprises, agriculture and tourism/hospitality, VSA volunteers are helping to diversify and sustain incomes.

Read blog posts from Gina Coffin, a 2012 UniVol working with On the Spot and the Tonga National Youth Congress.

Agriculture is the primary industry with coconut products, vanilla, squash, kava, peppers, tomatoes, watermelons and limes being significant exports. Families often supplement their incomes through fishing, tourism and overseas family remittances. Tonga is heavily dependent on aid programmes. VSA volunteers are working to support a sustainable and robust agricultural sector.

Tonga’s geographical location also makes it very vulnerable to natural disasters, including frequent cyclone activity. Disaster preparedness is a priority for development.

Programme Officer Mike Lee recently visited Tonga. Read a staff blog about his visit.

 

Latest on Tonga

Wendy Roger – Tourism and hospitality in Tonga

Wendy Roger – Tourism and hospitality in Tonga

Wendy volunteered from February 2013 to February 2014 as a Hospitality and Tourism Trainer with the Tonga Business Enterprise Centre (TBEC). Read More


New volunteers heading out on assignment - June 2014
Alan and Maureen Struckman – export processing in Tonga
New volunteers heading out on assigment - April 2014

Living and Working in Tonga


Language and culture

VSA assignments last up to two years, so local language training is important. VSA provides basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Housing and living conditions

Secure accommodation is provided for volunteers with basic furnishings, running water, a kitchen with gas or electric cooking as well as indoor bathroom facilities with a flush toilet. Volunteers have access to telephones, internet, restaurants, public transport systems and 24-hour power (although power outages are a regular occurrence). A ‘surge breaker’ or ‘spike buster’ is advisable to protect sensitive appliances from Tonga’s erratic power supply. Tonga has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. We advise our volunteers to boil drinking water, use a purifier or drink bottled water.

Dress standards

Tonga has a big expatriate community and most are used to seeing Western ways of dressing, with many locals dressing very similarly. However, it is important to remember that volunteers have a different motivation for living and working in Tonga from most expatriates. We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively. Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless is acceptable. Traditionally women must cover knees and elbows and men usually dress in pants or tupenu (cloth wrap skirt). Tongans generally swim fully clothed.

Traditional dress

The ta'ovala is a traditional woven mat worn by men and women over the tupenu (a single coloured wrap). It is formal attire and it shows respect and authority. There are different kinds of ta'ovala for different occasions. But the most common are made from the leaves of the pandanus tree.

Kafa is a braided rope, used as a belt to hold up the ta'ovala worn by both men and women. Traditionally it is made from the inner fibre of the coconut husk braided together strand by strand. Some kafa are made from human hair from a dead relative. This type of kafa is held in very high regard and treasured by the family.

Kiekie is worn around the waist by women only and can be very decorative. It is often made from the pandanus tree and can be best described as a belt with strands that hang down below the knee.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. Medical care is limited in Tonga, with Tonga’s main hospital (Vaiola Hospital) being a 10 minute ride from the capital, Nuku’alofa. While hospital staff are mostly well trained, the equipment and facilities are limited

As a volunteer, you would be covered under VSA’s medical insurance policy, and are required to undertake a medical examination (or complete a medical questionnaire for short-term volunteers) and have necessary inoculations before being approved to depart for the field.

Safety

VSA provides all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing that covers specific local issues prior to departure. In general, there are no problems moving around Tonga although you will be given a more detailed security briefing upon arrival. Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night.

Banking and finances

Banks in Tonga include, ANZ, Bank of Tonga and Westpac. Volunteers can open a local bank account once they arrive in Tonga where monthly living allowances are paid into. You will find ATMs in town with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards. Local currency is TOP - Tongan Pa'anga. Visit oanda.com for current exchange rates.

Town amenities

In town, there is a post office, travel agents, local businesses, as well as small shops, cafes and a supermarket selling imported food and a vegetable market with competitive prices. The NZ High Commission is also in the centre of town.

Cell phones and email

Tonga has two cellular providers, Digicel (Tonga) Limited and Tonga Communications Corporation (UCALL). Coverage is generally good in urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations. Internet connections are readily available at reasonable speeds and and internet cafes are available in town with wireless hotspots around businesses and hospitality complexes.

Living and Working in Tonga
Language and culture

VSA assignments last up to two years, so local language training is important. VSA provides basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Housing and living conditions

Secure accommodation is provided for volunteers with basic furnishings, running water, a kitchen with gas or electric cooking as well as indoor bathroom facilities with a flush toilet. Volunteers have access to telephones, internet, restaurants, public transport systems and 24-hour power (although power outages are a regular occurrence). A ‘surge breaker’ or ‘spike buster’ is advisable to protect sensitive appliances from Tonga’s erratic power supply. Tonga has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. We advise our volunteers to boil drinking water, use a purifier or drink bottled water.

Dress standards

Tonga has a big expatriate community and most are used to seeing Western ways of dressing, with many locals dressing very similarly. However, it is important to remember that volunteers have a different motivation for living and working in Tonga from most expatriates. We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively. Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless is acceptable. Traditionally women must cover knees and elbows and men usually dress in pants or tupenu (cloth wrap skirt). Tongans generally swim fully clothed.

Traditional dress

The ta'ovala is a traditional woven mat worn by men and women over the tupenu (a single coloured wrap). It is formal attire and it shows respect and authority. There are different kinds of ta'ovala for different occasions. But the most common are made from the leaves of the pandanus tree.

Kafa is a braided rope, used as a belt to hold up the ta'ovala worn by both men and women. Traditionally it is made from the inner fibre of the coconut husk braided together strand by strand. Some kafa are made from human hair from a dead relative. This type of kafa is held in very high regard and treasured by the family.

Kiekie is worn around the waist by women only and can be very decorative. It is often made from the pandanus tree and can be best described as a belt with strands that hang down below the knee.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. Medical care is limited in Tonga, with Tonga’s main hospital (Vaiola Hospital) being a 10 minute ride from the capital, Nuku’alofa. While hospital staff are mostly well trained, the equipment and facilities are limited

As a volunteer, you would be covered under VSA’s medical insurance policy, and are required to undertake a medical examination (or complete a medical questionnaire for short-term volunteers) and have necessary inoculations before being approved to depart for the field.

Safety

VSA provides all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing that covers specific local issues prior to departure. In general, there are no problems moving around Tonga although you will be given a more detailed security briefing upon arrival. Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night.

Banking and finances

Banks in Tonga include, ANZ, Bank of Tonga and Westpac. Volunteers can open a local bank account once they arrive in Tonga where monthly living allowances are paid into. You will find ATMs in town with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards. Local currency is TOP - Tongan Pa'anga. Visit oanda.com for current exchange rates.

Town amenities

In town, there is a post office, travel agents, local businesses, as well as small shops, cafes and a supermarket selling imported food and a vegetable market with competitive prices. The NZ High Commission is also in the centre of town.

Cell phones and email

Tonga has two cellular providers, Digicel (Tonga) Limited and Tonga Communications Corporation (UCALL). Coverage is generally good in urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations. Internet connections are readily available at reasonable speeds and and internet cafes are available in town with wireless hotspots around businesses and hospitality complexes.