Anna Stevens had been volunteering in some form all her adult life. But when she signed up as an eVolunteer Customer Service Training Advisor with the Tourism Authority of Kiribati (TAK) in 2022, she knew almost nothing about this unique island nation.

‘I didn’t even know how to pronounce its name,’ she admits. ‘I didn’t know what people travelled there for. So it was quite a wonderful experience to learn more about it.’

A former trainer at the New Zealand School of Tourism and a current Master’s student, Anna quickly got stuck in. 2022 was a busy time for the Tourism Authority: post-Covid, the organisation was keen to ramp up their tourism offering. ‘It had been a dead industry since Covid,’ explains Anna. ‘They were really looking to put together a programme that would ensure the industry was ready for the influx of tourists that would arrive once the borders opened.’

Anna's assignment was aimed at building capacity in Kiribati's tourism industry.

Anna was involved in putting together a training programme for frontline staff in the tourism industry. ‘We wanted to get them really upskilled so that when the borders reopened, they’d be ready and have the skills they’d need for the returning tourism market.’

She worked particularly closely with Petero Manufolau, the CEO of the Tourism Authority and the organisation’s Training and Development Division to develop The Mauri Way – a programme that spotlights the friendly, family-oriented hospitality Kiribati celebrates. In 2023, she reprised her role to help implement the programme, with the hope of encouraging more Kiwis to visit Kiribati just as they do many other Pacific countries.

Anna says eVolunteering was a really positive experience, with no two days the same. ‘Because there were lots of stakeholders involved, there wasn’t necessarily a routine. It just moved at the pace it moved, once the necessary people got the oversight they needed.’

Over the 10 months she volunteered in total, Anna says there were ‘too many highlights to count’. Above all, she loved getting to know a bit more about Kiribati. ‘I learnt so much about a new culture. And it was really satisfying and rewarding to get the project off the ground and be able to help TAK launch this initiative that would have a tangible benefit to the industry and the people of Kiribati more widely.’

Any advice for incoming volunteers? ‘Learning is a two-way street,’ she says. ‘Just go in with an open mind! I absolutely gained as much as I gave.’