To provide English language assistance to Tongan students, to provide Tongan language assistance to English-speakers, and to promote literacy among Tongan children and parents.
Together, Richard and ‘Ofa Thompson have authored The Student’s English-Tongan and Tongan-English Dictionary and a number of children’s picture books in Tongan. Richard and ‘Ofa were married in 1986 and now make their home in California, where they enjoy gardening, outdoor recreation, and reading. They have two children, a daughter Rebekah, and a son Aaron, both born in Tonga. The Thompsons still enjoy frequent visits to the islands, and maintain an interest in promoting education in Tonga.
‘Ofa Halatanu Thompson was raised in the Tonga Islands where she attended local schools and graduated from Siu’ilikutapu secondary school in 1980. In 1986, she was part of an award winning, native dance group. In addition to being a homemaker and mother, ‘Ofa worked at the Friendly Islands Bookshop while living in Tonga with her husband Richard.
Richard Thompson was raised in the United States of America and holds a B.A. in History, an M.Div. and a D.Min. He taught in Tonga at Sia’atoutai Theological College from 1987 to 1990 and at Tupou High School from 1990 to 1993.
Friendly Isles Press had its inception in the need for a widely available and affordable English-Tongan dictionary in the United States. Several very good dictionaries were readily available in the island kingdom of Tonga, but much harder to come by in the U.S. The Student’s English-Tongan and Tongan-English Dictionary was already used throughout the schools in Tonga and among Tongan people living in the U.S. English-speaking tourists and others who had an interest in the Tongan language, used it as well.
People began asking how they could get one of those dictionaries in the U.S. The publisher of The Student’s-Tongan and Tongan-English Dictionary—the Friendly Islands Bookshop of Tonga—was not prepared to sell to a market in America, so Friendly Isles Press was established to produce the dictionary in the U.S.. The Student’s-Tongan and Tongan-English Dictionary, American Edition was published by Friendly Isles Press in 2000 and began filling orders immediately, mostly through booksellers and well-known bookstores.