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VSA in Bougainville

Flag of Bougainville

VSA began working in Bougainville in 1998 with a programme that responded to the immediate needs of a post-conflict society. Today, our volunteers work alongside the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and non-government organisations. Together, they support public services, enable community development and secure livelihoods for rural people. VSA has a field office in Arawa and a sub office in Buka. The Programme Manager is based in Arawa and a part time Programme Support Officer assists from the Buka sub office.


Living and Working in Bougainville


Banking and finances

There are two banks in Bougainville: the Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) in Buka and Arawa. Long queues are common. We open a local bank account for volunteers once they arrive in Bougainville and volunteers in Arawa and Buka are paid monthly living allowances into these accounts. Debit cards are available and there are ATM/Quickcash machines at the bank. A small number of guesthouses accept foreign credit cards, as do Air Niugini. Local currency is the Kina. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Bougainville has two cellular providers, B-Mobile and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations.  International connections, though, can be unreliable especially during the day when sent text messages can fail or take hours to get through. Internet connection is very limited compared to New Zealand. There are two internet cafes in Buka, but connections (and power) are not always reliable and internet speed is slow. Recently Digicel have upgraded to 3G in Arawa and Buka which has improved internet capacity and speed. Telikom and Digicel have USB modems available, costing around PKG100 and offer increasingly competitive data packages.

Dress standards

Bougainville is a conservative region and some Western-style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional events. Women should wear shorts and a t-shirt while swimming.

Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We encourage basic language training (tok pisin) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Bougainville is typical of many developing countries where people do not usually approach things head on. Talking about family and local issues is often required before getting down to discussing what you as a volunteer may want.

Health

Malaria is endemic in Bougainville and all volunteers must use malarial prophylaxis. Other precautions are still recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves / trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net at all times. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There is a public hospital in Buka, and both Arawa and Buin have health centres, with smaller centres scattered around the islands. Health care is very basic and you will need to be proactive and responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation but you may be asked to share accommodation with other volunteers as there is a shortage of housing, especially in Buka. All volunteer housing has gas facilities for cooking but most rely on rainwater for water supply, so be aware of your water use. In Buka and Arawa, you’ll probably have access to 24-hour power although prolonged power outages are a regular occurrence. If you are based elsewhere, access to power and services is more limited and may be generator-based, available for certain times during the day.

Bougainville is still a post-conflict society and there are more restrictions on how volunteers are able to move around than in other locations. It is recommended that you do not go out alone a night, so a good supply of books, DVDs or games may be required. Social activities normally associated with New Zealand society are limited, although swimming, canoeing, fishing, snorkeling and some trekking opportunities are available.

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. Generally, the post-conflict nature of Bougainville means you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings and make sensible decisions on personal safety. Land ownership is complex and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission. Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night. Walking in Buka or Arawa during the day is quite safe and there is a NZ Community Policing Project operating in both towns.

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In-country partner profile

Nazareth Rehabilitation Programme

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Meet Alison Turner

Alison Turner, Programme Manager (Bougainville)

Alison is our Programme Manager (Bougainville).

Read more

Quick facts


  • The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, previously known as the North Solomons, is made up of Buka, Bougainville and another 166 smaller islands.

  • Its name originates from French explorer Captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville who sailed Bougainville’s east coast in 1768.

  • The capital city is Buka (Arawa is the next largest centre).

  • Official languages are Tok Pisin and English.

  • Bougainville is volcanic, although Buka Island is made up almost completely of raised coral.

  • The region’s highest point, Mt Balbi, is a dormant volcano.

  • Bougainville hosts Benua Cave, one of the world’s largest at 4.5 million cubic metres.

  • Bougainvilleans have a matrilineal system of clan membership.

  • While the majority of Bougainvilleans are Melanesian, the people of Takuu and Nukuman islands are Polynesian.

  • Bougainville does not currently have an independent rating on the Human Development Index. However, its population is included in Papua New Guinea's rating of 157 (2014 UN Human Development Report).
Source: The Lonely Planet , 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

If you are interested in becoming an in-country partner organisation with VSA in Bougainville, contact us at the address below. Alternatively, email us by clicking the 'Contact us' button right at the bottom of this page.

VSA, PO Box 15, Buka, BOUGAINVILLE



Chris Leather

VSA volunteer profiles

Chris Leather – Grants Field Officer

Chris Leather is a World Vision/VSA volunteer working as a Grants Field Officer for World Vision PNG as part of the New Zealand and Regional Partnerships programme. She is accompanied by her husband, Gerald. They will return to New Zealand in May 2015. View Profile


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The 10-year civil conflict left half the population displaced and communities divided. Today, the region is still classified as a post-conflict society.

BOUG page pic 1

Watch this video for more information about the Bougainville Conflict.

Bougainville culture is based on the wantok system. Wantok, or ‘one talk’, refers to the people who speak your language – your extended family/clan. People’s primary loyalty is to their wantoks. The region is predominantly Christian, made up mostly of Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist and United Church congregations.

 

What we’re doing in Bougainville

Bougainville’s development problems after the civil conflict were huge. The country needs ongoing support to develop good governance, re-establish law and justice systems and build social cohesion.

VSA has been working with the ABG, Council of Elders and other civil society organisations to strengthen the fledgling government. VSA volunteers aid the development of projects and programmes that help build economic and social capacity. This helps contribute to the goal of a fully independent government.

After the conflict, the region had virtually no economic activity, and education and health services were badly damaged. VSA’s volunteers strengthen economic development through work in:

  • vocational education and skills training such as book keeping
  • livelihood opportunities such as small business management and marketing
  • transport infrastructure such as road maintenance

 

BOUG page pic 2

 

Read about how small, local tourism ventures are contributing to Bougainville’s economic development.

 

Gender inequality and violence against women is a common post-conflict social issue. Working with partners like The Nazareth Rehabilitation Programme, VSA volunteers assist in caring for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence. They also help to address the underlying causes by working with all members of the community.

 

Meet Liz Hicks, a volunteer with the Nazareth Rehabilitation Centre.

Latest on Bougainville

A shared platter: pesto, mushroom dip and crayfish

A shared platter: pesto, mushroom dip and crayfish

Recipes from Moniek: alfresco dining with watercress pesto, mushroom dip and crayfish. Read More


Philippa Robinson – Managing the haus stori in Bougainville
Tyler Rosolowski – ICT in Bougainville
Kaukau banana bread, plus coconut and peppermint chocolate brownie

Living and Working in Bougainville


Banking and finances

There are two banks in Bougainville: the Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) in Buka and Arawa. Long queues are common. We open a local bank account for volunteers once they arrive in Bougainville and volunteers in Arawa and Buka are paid monthly living allowances into these accounts. Debit cards are available and there are ATM/Quickcash machines at the bank. A small number of guesthouses accept foreign credit cards, as do Air Niugini. Local currency is the Kina. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Bougainville has two cellular providers, B-Mobile and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations.  International connections, though, can be unreliable especially during the day when sent text messages can fail or take hours to get through. Internet connection is very limited compared to New Zealand. There are two internet cafes in Buka, but connections (and power) are not always reliable and internet speed is slow. Recently Digicel have upgraded to 3G in Arawa and Buka which has improved internet capacity and speed. Telikom and Digicel have USB modems available, costing around PKG100 and offer increasingly competitive data packages.

Dress standards

Bougainville is a conservative region and some Western-style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional events. Women should wear shorts and a t-shirt while swimming.

Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We encourage basic language training (tok pisin) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Bougainville is typical of many developing countries where people do not usually approach things head on. Talking about family and local issues is often required before getting down to discussing what you as a volunteer may want.

Health

Malaria is endemic in Bougainville and all volunteers must use malarial prophylaxis. Other precautions are still recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves / trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net at all times. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There is a public hospital in Buka, and both Arawa and Buin have health centres, with smaller centres scattered around the islands. Health care is very basic and you will need to be proactive and responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation but you may be asked to share accommodation with other volunteers as there is a shortage of housing, especially in Buka. All volunteer housing has gas facilities for cooking but most rely on rainwater for water supply, so be aware of your water use. In Buka and Arawa, you’ll probably have access to 24-hour power although prolonged power outages are a regular occurrence. If you are based elsewhere, access to power and services is more limited and may be generator-based, available for certain times during the day.

Bougainville is still a post-conflict society and there are more restrictions on how volunteers are able to move around than in other locations. It is recommended that you do not go out alone a night, so a good supply of books, DVDs or games may be required. Social activities normally associated with New Zealand society are limited, although swimming, canoeing, fishing, snorkeling and some trekking opportunities are available.

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. Generally, the post-conflict nature of Bougainville means you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings and make sensible decisions on personal safety. Land ownership is complex and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission. Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night. Walking in Buka or Arawa during the day is quite safe and there is a NZ Community Policing Project operating in both towns.

Living and Working in Bougainville
Banking and finances

There are two banks in Bougainville: the Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) in Buka and Arawa. Long queues are common. We open a local bank account for volunteers once they arrive in Bougainville and volunteers in Arawa and Buka are paid monthly living allowances into these accounts. Debit cards are available and there are ATM/Quickcash machines at the bank. A small number of guesthouses accept foreign credit cards, as do Air Niugini. Local currency is the Kina. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Bougainville has two cellular providers, B-Mobile and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations.  International connections, though, can be unreliable especially during the day when sent text messages can fail or take hours to get through. Internet connection is very limited compared to New Zealand. There are two internet cafes in Buka, but connections (and power) are not always reliable and internet speed is slow. Recently Digicel have upgraded to 3G in Arawa and Buka which has improved internet capacity and speed. Telikom and Digicel have USB modems available, costing around PKG100 and offer increasingly competitive data packages.

Dress standards

Bougainville is a conservative region and some Western-style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional events. Women should wear shorts and a t-shirt while swimming.

Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We encourage basic language training (tok pisin) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Bougainville is typical of many developing countries where people do not usually approach things head on. Talking about family and local issues is often required before getting down to discussing what you as a volunteer may want.

Health

Malaria is endemic in Bougainville and all volunteers must use malarial prophylaxis. Other precautions are still recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves / trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net at all times. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There is a public hospital in Buka, and both Arawa and Buin have health centres, with smaller centres scattered around the islands. Health care is very basic and you will need to be proactive and responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation but you may be asked to share accommodation with other volunteers as there is a shortage of housing, especially in Buka. All volunteer housing has gas facilities for cooking but most rely on rainwater for water supply, so be aware of your water use. In Buka and Arawa, you’ll probably have access to 24-hour power although prolonged power outages are a regular occurrence. If you are based elsewhere, access to power and services is more limited and may be generator-based, available for certain times during the day.

Bougainville is still a post-conflict society and there are more restrictions on how volunteers are able to move around than in other locations. It is recommended that you do not go out alone a night, so a good supply of books, DVDs or games may be required. Social activities normally associated with New Zealand society are limited, although swimming, canoeing, fishing, snorkeling and some trekking opportunities are available.

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. Generally, the post-conflict nature of Bougainville means you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings and make sensible decisions on personal safety. Land ownership is complex and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission. Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night. Walking in Buka or Arawa during the day is quite safe and there is a NZ Community Policing Project operating in both towns.