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July Monthly Spotlight: Lori Osmundsen


Lori Osmundsen is the current Compliance Officer for Friends Of Tonga. Lori is a practicing lawyer - she has been an attorney for the past 30 years. 


During her undergraduate studies she had initially focused on both science and history at Yale with the goal of becoming a marine geologist. After gaining her Bachelors she was undecided about what to do next so took a year off to work for the university. It was during this time that a friend invited her to an information evening about the Peace Corps.


Before then Lori had never considered joining the Peace Corps, but the desire to provide some company for her friend as well as there being free pizza on offer (lol) was enough to get Lori to attend. The Peace Corps seemed like a great opportunity to combine Lori’s interests in travel and community-based volunteer work. After applying and being accepted to the Peace Corps, she was assigned to The Kingdom Of Tonga.  Not knowing anything about Tonga and unsure even where it was, Lori readily accepted and considers it one of her best decisions.


During her service in Tonga Lori taught science and helped to train Tongan science teachers. Lori ended up spending her years of service in some of the most remote parts of Tonga - this included Nuiatoputapu where there was no electricity, running water as well as there being no other foreigner living on the island. Lori quickly learnt Tongan and appreciated how patient the locals were with her in learning their language. After a year on Nuiatoputapu she was then moved to Neiafu in Vava’u where she taught Science at the local high school called Tailulu College. After securing some funding for a Women’s Cooperative Project  in Nuiatoputapu Lori decided to extend her placement by a year, and ended up serving as a volunteer in Tonga for a total of 3 and a half years.


When Lori returned to America she went to law school at Harvard and after graduation worked as a staff attorney for the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia. Years later Lori even returned to Tonga to work as a lawyer, and was a member of the Tongan Law Society for 3 years. 


Lori is excited to be a part of Friends Of Tonga because she sees it as fulfilling a huge need for Tonga-targeted community assistance that falls through the cracks of large institutional or government-sponsored aid.  She is also enthusiastic about supporting environmental initiatives in Tonga with FoT’s community partners..


Lori says that one of her most fondest memories of Tonga was being chosen for the role of ‘vahenga’ during a cultural dance performance by her school for a visiting royal when she was living in Nuiatoputapu. Although she had initially tried to excuse herself from the honor out of fear she would bring down the quality of the performance of her vastly more talented and graceful students, she relented and accepted the position after being told by a village elder “we are proud that a foreigner is willing to learn our traditional song and dance and so we want to show you off.”  Lori remembers the experience as being completely nerve-wracking but also deeply moving.