The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano on 15 January 2022

Pauline experienced what it was like to be there, in Tonga, on 15 January 2022 when the disaster struck. In the face of terror, Pauline, a mother of six with children aged 7 to 16 showed resilience despite being completely unprepared for what took place.

Pauline is a mother of six children who range in age from 7 to 16. She is now an employee of Caritas Tonga and experienced first hand the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga. Credit: Nicole Chehine.


When the volcano erupted, it was a night that Pauline and her family would never forget.

Confused and scared, they fled from their home to the water's edge to investigate the sound. The waves had taken an unusual form, revealing the impending danger – a tsunami. In that critical moment, they turned and fled for higher ground.

The only safe place they found was a hilltop chapel in Tonga where Pauline, her husband, and their children sought refuge for days, sharing the space with many others who stayed for safety from the disaster. Everyone slept where they could on the pews of the chapel, some staying at the chapel for up to a week.

Pauline is a mother of six children and is now an employee of Caritas Tonga. Her family experienced the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga first hand and had to drive to a chapel during the disaster to seek refuge. Credit: Pauline Bourke

The need for a new evacuation centre

Today, Pauline works for Caritas Tonga, helping run programs that support families to build resilience and prepare for future disasters.

Pauline believes a new evacuation centre is vital for Tonga. It will offer a safe haven during disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. This centre would be a sanctuary for all, providing safety and security for the community for when the next disaster strikes.


The role of psychosocial support

Beyond physical aid, Pauline stresses the importance of psychosocial support. Even a year after the eruption, many in the community still grapple with trauma.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by disasters.

Your support can help go towards critical needs including:

Building an evacuation centre.

Constructing a warehouse to store emergency supplies.

Providing counselling to support families recovering from trauma.

Help other people affected by natural disasters

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