FAQs Returned Volunteers

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VSA in Vanuatu

Flag of Vanuatu

VSA has been working in Vanuatu since 1965. Our volunteers work in five out of Vanuatu’s six provinces. They are helping to strengthen economic development within tourism and agriculture, develop rural vocational education and improve waste management. VSA has a field office in Luganville staffed by a Programme Manager and a Programme Administrator.


Living and Working in Vanuatu


Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic language training (Bislama) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment, but be aware these can change from one island to the next. Topics are often not approached directly. 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 ensure volunteers are provided with basic, furnished accommodation with gas facilities for cooking. Some volunteer housing relies on rainwater for water supply so be aware of your water use, especially during dry periods. In Port Vila and Santo, you’ll probably have access to 24-hour power, telephones, town water supply, internet, restaurants, public transport systems, a good variety of shops and a wider community of expatriates. If you are based elsewhere, you may have none of these. The town water supply in both Vila and Santo is treated and safe to drink, although the water is high in calcium, so it is best to boil before drinking.

Dress standards

Vanuatu is a conservative place and some western-style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best for the climate and culturally appropriate. 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 or a sarong and a t-shirt while swimming in non-resort areas.

Health

Malaria is endemic in most of Vanuatu outside Port Vila 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 if you are staying in malaria areas. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are public hospitals in Port Vila and Luganville as well as private medical facilities with smaller health centres scattered throughout the islands. Health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Safety

We provide all volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during in-country orientation. Like many developing countries, you need to be aware of your surroundings in Vanuatu and make sensible decisions as to your personal security. Walking in Port Vila or Santo during the day is quite safe, but take care when walking alone and avoid doing this at night. Theft is common in towns, so be careful with your possessions and ensure housing is locked when empty. Bear in mind also that land ownership is complex and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission.

Banking and finances

There are several banks in Vanuatu although fewer options exist outside Port Vila. We open a local bank account for all volunteers once you arrive in Vanuatu and monthly living allowances are paid into this. Debit cards are available for volunteers with ANZ or Westpac accounts in Port Vila or Luganville. Local currency is the Vatu. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Vanuatu has two cellular providers, Telecom Vanuatu Ltd and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas, but fades quickly as you move to rural areas. International connections can be unreliable, especially during the day when sent text messages can fail or take hours to get through. Economy rates for calls and texts (both international and domestic) are available so check these before deciding on a provider.

Internet connection is very limited compared to New Zealand in terms of speed. There are some public internet cafes in Port Vila and in Santo. Some organisations will have internet at work, but don’t assume this for more rural areas. In some cases it might be possible, at your own cost, to get internet connected at home.

Donate to VSA

It costs money to send volunteers overseas and every dollar you donate to VSA goes towards programmes that really do work.

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Become a volunteer

Register with VSA to find out about new vacancies. Or if you are already registered, login to update your details.

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In-country partner profile

ADRA Vanuatu

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Meet Andrew Johnston

An interview with Andrew Johnston, Programme Manager (Vanuatu)

Meet Andrew, our Programme Manager for Vanuatu.

Read more

Quick facts


  • Vanuatu comprises four main islands and 80 smaller islands, about 60 of which are inhabited.

  • There is significant volcanic activity, with multiple eruptions in recent years. Yasur, on Tanna Island, is one of the world's most active volcanoes. There are several underwater volcanoes as well.

  • Population: 261,565 (37.9% of whom are under 14 years old).

  • The economy is based on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for about two-thirds of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services and tourism are other mainstays.

  • Australia and New Zealand are the main suppliers of tourists and foreign aid.

  • Main agricultural products are copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, fruits, vegetables, beef and fish.

  • The capital city is Port Vila.

  • Official languages are Bislama (Pidgin), English and French. There are also more than 100 local languages.

  • Vanuatu has a Human Development Index rating of 131 (2014 UN Human Development Report).
Source: CIA Factbook , 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 Vanuatu, 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 149, Luganville, Santo, VANUATU



Video


  VSA volunteers like Dianne Hambrook work in partnership with local communities to build sustainable change.

View Video

Alan Withy (Past volunteer)

VSA volunteer profiles

Alan Withy (Past volunteer) – Data and Communications Assistant

Alan Withy was volunteering as a Small Business Management Adviser with the Anglican Church of Melanesia in Sanma Province, Vanuatu. Alan completed his assignment in June 2016.


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Cyclone Pam

Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu on Friday 13 March 2015. The category five storm had a devastating impact on the islands. VSA continues to work with our partners and host communities in Vanuatu to help with the recovery. Our current volunteers are focusing on rebuilding infrastructure, getting businesses operational again and supporting government. You can donate towards this work through our Rebuild Vanuatu Appeal.

 

Vanuatu

 

Vanuatu is situated on a volcanic archipelago of 86 islands where traditional lifestyles exist side by side with modern tourist resorts. Around 110 indigenous languages are still spoken by an average of only 2,000 people per language, making it the country with the highest density of languages per capita in the world.

VAN Page pic 2b

The majority of people living in Vanuatu are Melanesian. It is a predominantly Christian country. Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity derived from regional variations and an adherence to kastom (traditional practices and lifestyles).

Vanuatu's economy is primarily agriculture-based and engages approximately 80 per cent of the population. Copra, kava and beef make up more than 75 per cent of total agricultural exports, with agriculture accounting for around 20 per cent of GDP.

 

Read about the cutting-edge disaster communications system implemented by VSA volunteer Simon Donald.

 

What we’re doing in Vanuatu

 

Most Ni-Vanuatu live a subsistence lifestyle and sell any surplus produce at local markets. Our volunteers work to build sustainable rural livelihoods and strengthen national economic development. VSA volunteers are also working in the agricultural sector, improving access to markets, supporting small agriculture co-operatives and improving agriculture techniques.

VAN Page pic 3

Tourism is a growth area and the largest contributor to the economy after agriculture. VSA works with tourism venture owners and organisations to promote locally-owned, locally-run enterprises and keep profits from going off-shore.

 

Read more about bringing tourism profits home to Vanuatu.

 

Lack of access to education, particularly in rural areas, is a big problem. There are declining literacy and numeracy levels, a shortage of teachers and a lack of educational infrastructure. Our volunteers work with Rural Training Centres to improve rural communities’ access to vocational education. VSA volunteers are working at government as well as community level to ensure good education is available to people of all ages.

Local government infrastructure is supported through volunteer assignments in areas such as waste management and youth clinics. VSA volunteers are sharing their skills to help build up good governance. This leads to wider improvements in public health and well-being.

 

Latest on Vanuatu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living and Working in Vanuatu


Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic language training (Bislama) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment, but be aware these can change from one island to the next. Topics are often not approached directly. 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 ensure volunteers are provided with basic, furnished accommodation with gas facilities for cooking. Some volunteer housing relies on rainwater for water supply so be aware of your water use, especially during dry periods. In Port Vila and Santo, you’ll probably have access to 24-hour power, telephones, town water supply, internet, restaurants, public transport systems, a good variety of shops and a wider community of expatriates. If you are based elsewhere, you may have none of these. The town water supply in both Vila and Santo is treated and safe to drink, although the water is high in calcium, so it is best to boil before drinking.

Dress standards

Vanuatu is a conservative place and some western-style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best for the climate and culturally appropriate. 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 or a sarong and a t-shirt while swimming in non-resort areas.

Health

Malaria is endemic in most of Vanuatu outside Port Vila 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 if you are staying in malaria areas. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are public hospitals in Port Vila and Luganville as well as private medical facilities with smaller health centres scattered throughout the islands. Health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Safety

We provide all volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during in-country orientation. Like many developing countries, you need to be aware of your surroundings in Vanuatu and make sensible decisions as to your personal security. Walking in Port Vila or Santo during the day is quite safe, but take care when walking alone and avoid doing this at night. Theft is common in towns, so be careful with your possessions and ensure housing is locked when empty. Bear in mind also that land ownership is complex and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission.

Banking and finances

There are several banks in Vanuatu although fewer options exist outside Port Vila. We open a local bank account for all volunteers once you arrive in Vanuatu and monthly living allowances are paid into this. Debit cards are available for volunteers with ANZ or Westpac accounts in Port Vila or Luganville. Local currency is the Vatu. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Vanuatu has two cellular providers, Telecom Vanuatu Ltd and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas, but fades quickly as you move to rural areas. International connections can be unreliable, especially during the day when sent text messages can fail or take hours to get through. Economy rates for calls and texts (both international and domestic) are available so check these before deciding on a provider.

Internet connection is very limited compared to New Zealand in terms of speed. There are some public internet cafes in Port Vila and in Santo. Some organisations will have internet at work, but don’t assume this for more rural areas. In some cases it might be possible, at your own cost, to get internet connected at home.

Living and Working in Vanuatu
Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic language training (Bislama) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment, but be aware these can change from one island to the next. Topics are often not approached directly. 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 ensure volunteers are provided with basic, furnished accommodation with gas facilities for cooking. Some volunteer housing relies on rainwater for water supply so be aware of your water use, especially during dry periods. In Port Vila and Santo, you’ll probably have access to 24-hour power, telephones, town water supply, internet, restaurants, public transport systems, a good variety of shops and a wider community of expatriates. If you are based elsewhere, you may have none of these. The town water supply in both Vila and Santo is treated and safe to drink, although the water is high in calcium, so it is best to boil before drinking.

Dress standards

Vanuatu is a conservative place and some western-style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best for the climate and culturally appropriate. 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 or a sarong and a t-shirt while swimming in non-resort areas.

Health

Malaria is endemic in most of Vanuatu outside Port Vila 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 if you are staying in malaria areas. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are public hospitals in Port Vila and Luganville as well as private medical facilities with smaller health centres scattered throughout the islands. Health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Safety

We provide all volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during in-country orientation. Like many developing countries, you need to be aware of your surroundings in Vanuatu and make sensible decisions as to your personal security. Walking in Port Vila or Santo during the day is quite safe, but take care when walking alone and avoid doing this at night. Theft is common in towns, so be careful with your possessions and ensure housing is locked when empty. Bear in mind also that land ownership is complex and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission.

Banking and finances

There are several banks in Vanuatu although fewer options exist outside Port Vila. We open a local bank account for all volunteers once you arrive in Vanuatu and monthly living allowances are paid into this. Debit cards are available for volunteers with ANZ or Westpac accounts in Port Vila or Luganville. Local currency is the Vatu. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Vanuatu has two cellular providers, Telecom Vanuatu Ltd and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas, but fades quickly as you move to rural areas. International connections can be unreliable, especially during the day when sent text messages can fail or take hours to get through. Economy rates for calls and texts (both international and domestic) are available so check these before deciding on a provider.

Internet connection is very limited compared to New Zealand in terms of speed. There are some public internet cafes in Port Vila and in Santo. Some organisations will have internet at work, but don’t assume this for more rural areas. In some cases it might be possible, at your own cost, to get internet connected at home.