Our association with Kiribati (pronounced ‘kee-ree-bus’), dates back to 1967 when the first of 34 volunteers took up an assignment there. Our programme focuses on promoting sustainable economic and urban development and strengthening the public sector with volunteers working at the Kiribati Marine Training Centre on Tarawa, waste management and access to water on Kiritimati Island. The Kiribati programme is managed from our Wellington office.

The Republic of Kiribati, formerly the Gilbert Islands, is located in Micronesia and made up of 32 atolls and one raised coral island: Kiritimati (Christmas) Island. Kiribati has just over 100,000 inhabitants, most living in densely populated areas. With an estimated 137 people per square kilometre, it has the largest sea-to-land ratio in the world. Approximately one-quarter of the population live in the capital, South Tarawa, on the atoll of Tarawa.

The mwaneaba (community house) is traditionally the centre of community life where community discussions, council meetings and celebrations take place and where important decisions are made. Christianity is the main religion although there are a number of people who practice the Baha’i faith.

What we’re doing in Kiribati

VSA’s work in Kiribati is a mixture of short-term assignments around technical and management advice such as engineering, and long-term assignments building skills and capacity such as English language skills. 

In the health sector, VSA continues to build on very well-established relationships. These relationships have enabled VSA to contribute volunteers in alignment with the strategic objectives of the Kiribati government, including a Substance Abuse Policy and in the Family Health sector. VSA has been fortunate that a number of experienced Kiribati returned volunteers have been willing to undertake these roles. 

VSA has entered into a partnership with the Special Needs School and English language education has remained a priority in Kiribati and VSA has continued to work in this area.