VSA began work in Tokelau in 1987, working mainly with the Tokelau Department of Education to strengthen its capacity to provide quality education opportunities for children and young people. Our most recent volunteer completed her assignment in May 2013. We do not currently have any volunteers working in Tokelau.
Tokelau is an external territory administered by New Zealand, situated 500km north of Samoa and consisting of three atolls: Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. Each is separated by 100 to 150km of open sea. There are only around 1,400 Tokelauans living across the three atolls, although a further 6,000 are now living in New Zealand. Tokelau is one of the most isolated places in the world, only accessible by a 30-hour boat trip from Samoa.
Tokelau has a system of governance based on a Taupulega or Council of Elders. There is a Taupulega on each atoll which is representative of local families. The Taupulega directs village activities and representatives from each Taupulega make up the General Fono (the parliament of Tokelau). Life on the atolls is quite structured and many traditional customs are still practised. The population is predominately Christian.
In economic development, Tokelau’s key challenges stem from its isolation and lack of viable land to undertake any large scale agriculture. The majority of Tokelau’s income is provided through aid from New Zealand and remittances from Tokelauans living overseas.
What we're doing in Tokelau
Social challenges in Tokelau are linked to the small population and the limited capacity to supply facilities and services for all three atolls. A lack of trained teachers and lack of senior secondary schools are pressing issues. VSA volunteers have worked with the Tokelau Department of Education to strengthen its ongoing capacity to provide quality education for children and young people.