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We have offered to do a number of economic development projects, and started most, where all the profits could go to the villagers.  Our major economic development projects could be of great benefit to the villagers, as most of the people are living below poverty level with little source of income except from some food that they grow, some fishing, and monetary gifts from relatives abroad.

Starspring’s major projects include first, an offer to Ovaka village to create a Marine Park and assist in building a small resort or day visitor center in front of it, and do the advertising for bringing tourists to it. The village could get all the profits. We offered to help design it and train, where needed, villagers to work in it.

Second, an offer over 5 years ago to collect the seed stock and develop and register in the name of the village a giant clam farm. It was estimated, with the unanimously elected Town Officer (Mayor), that this could bring at least a million Tongan dollars a year to the village. This is a food that Tongans love and is very rare in markets because of over harvesting. A farm on Ovaka could supply a huge quantity of vasuva (giant clam) for the markets and make Tonga less reliant on foreign imports of protein such as chicken and lamb, and villagers no longer needing their families from overseas to send them money. Photo on left of giant clam. If the project had been allowed to continue at that time and stealing had been effectively dealt with, the village would now be the wealthiest in Tonga.
 

Starspring is a charitable organization and both of us are on its Board of Directors, making it illegal for us to make a profit from our charitable work. We are also in Tonga on Assured Income visas, making it illegal for us to make a profit in Tonga.


The villagers are poor by world financial standards. Most houses don't have electricity, some have small solar systems. Most don't have flush toilets. Most cooking is done over wood burning fires.

Our minor assistance to the villagers includes the following. Some villagers have free use of our freezer (the only freezer on the island). We also charge up to 10 cell phones per day for residents, as well as their DVD players (a few 21st Century technologies have arrived in this ancient traditional culture). We have the only Internet access on the island, which is used by some villagers and the headmaster of the school. We have donated hundreds of plants to the villagers. The first thing children say when they come for their frequent visits is “lolly” with a big smile—what they want is the sweet children’s one-a-day vitamins that we give them to supplement their inadequate diet.

We have put in a road between the village and us with the permission of the land owner, partly for emergency medical attention that the villagers may need. We keep the primary medicine given by hospitals for heart attack and stroke, Also medicine for burns. The hospital is 2 hrs away; we are a ten minute walk. When we first came to the island there were many open infected sores. We have treated hundreds of infections with antibiotic ointment and band-aids (got some pretty ones for the kids).We have educated the people in the need to cover cuts to prevent the many flies in the village from spreading infections. Diabetes and high blood pressure are major problems in Tonga. Both can be eliminated or controlled by diet. We advise families of those who have these conditions on diet needs. The giant clam farm we said we could establish for them could bring in the money necessary for more expensive medical treatments that are needed by a number of people in the village; hand surgery, eye surgery, heart surgery, and extensive dental care.