Language and culture
VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important. We provide basic language training in tok pisin at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignments. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Papua New Guinea 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.
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.
Papua New Guinea is conservative 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.
Malaria is endemic in many parts of West and East New Britain, and New Ireland and all our 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 if you are staying in villages. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. Public hospitals are found in all provincial centres and smaller health centres are scattered throughout rural areas. Health care is basic, and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.
We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. In general, there are no problems moving around towns and major centres in East New Britain and New Ireland, but more caution is needed in West New Britain. 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.
Banking and finances
Banks are found in all provincial centres – Westpac, ANZ, the Bank of the South Pacific and the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation. We open a local bank account for volunteers once they arrive in Papua New Guinea where monthly living allowances are paid into. Debit cards are available, and you’ll find ATM/Quickcash machines at town centre locations with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards, as do Air Niugini. Local currency is the Kina. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.
Cell phones and email
There are 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. Internet cafes are available in Kokopo and Kimbe, but connections are not reliable and internet speed (generally dial-up) is slow. Wireless ‘hotspots’ around business and hospitality complexes are available in a growing number of centres. In East New Britain, Telikom has recently introduced wireless prepaid telephones that connect to the internet and cost PGK55. Both Telikom and Digicel have USB modems available, costing around PKG199 and PGK84 per month for 100MB downloads.