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Volunteering Abroad in Vanuatu

Volunteering abroad has never been as culturally rewarding or visually stunning as it is in Vanuatu. Become a volunteer in Vanuatu and discover the island paradise for altruistic travelers with a love of languages, where a record breaking density of 113 tribal languages are still actively spoken. Volunteering in Vanuatu, a cluster of 83 tropical islands off the coast of Australia, will give you unrivalled access to shorelines otherwise only encountered in glossy, travel magazines. Grab your swimsuit, pick a volunteer program in Vanuatu that suits your expertise, and dive into one of the most incredible destinations on Earth.

Locations

Vanuatu is a barely-known set of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, located 1750 kilometers off the north coast of Australia. For those seeking volunteer opportunities in the depths of unspoiled nature, or a place where they can be welcomed deep into the hearts of the local people, volunteering in Vanuatu is for you. Once judged to be the happiest place on Earth, Vanuatu’s traditional culture and way of life, which has barely changed in the past 4,000 years, makes it an archipelago where volunteers can relearn the simplicity of life and the beauty of just living.

Enjoy balmy climes volunteering in Vanuatu’s second largest city, Luganville; with around 13,000 inhabitants, you’ll be guaranteed a greater level of home comforts than in a rural placement, but without any feelings of urban claustrophobia. Located directly on the seafront of the island of Espiritu Santo, Luganville offers crystal clear waters and some of the finest things for you to do as a volunteer in Vanuatu, including diving into the wreck of the SS President Coolidge and taking an expedition into the depths of Millennium Cave to meet the local bat community. 

You’ll also find opportunities to volunteer in Vanuatu in small, rural communities, where well-preserved customs, trailblazing activities, and some rather interesting beliefs hold fort. Absorb community life and enjoy a break from technology on the volcanic island of Ambae; but be prepared, as the volcano at the center of this island remains active. Thrill-seekers will delight in living on Pentecost Island; the birthplace of the bungee jump or Naghol, this activity originated as a ceremony to ensure a good yam harvest and still continues between April and June of each year.

Wherever you wind up volunteering in Vanuatu, you’ll be warmly received by communities who have very little interaction with foreign visitors, and be astounded by nature’s finery in the lush, tropical jungle dominating this archipelago.

Volunteer Programs in Vanuatu

Due to a series of environmental and geographical factors, volunteers are needed in Vanuatu to support economic and social development. Volunteers with skills in a range of sectors will find themselves invaluable for charitable organizations located in Vanuatu. By offering your time as a volunteer in Vanuatu, you’ll come away with solid experience in a complex geographical and cultural context.

Those with experience in business management will find a series of volunteer opportunities in Vanuatu, where experienced professionals, particularly in the field of agriculture, are highly sought after. As much of the islands’ populations rely on subsistence farming, volunteer organizations often focus on expanding agriculture to stimulate economic activity and provide greater employment opportunities. If you’ve a degree in a field related to agriculture, volunteering in Vanuatu will give you the chance to promote community building and enable locals to move from subsistence farming to more long-term agricultural gains.

If you fancy living side-by-side with the ni-Vanuatus (the name given to inhabitants of the islands), grab the opportunity to volunteer in Vanuatu in an English teaching placement one of the nation’s rural communities. Imagine bamboo huts with thatched roofs set deep in tropical forests, where you’re guaranteed to form close friendships with your students and their families. Volunteer teachers in Vanuatu will find themselves trading information about their lives and gaining unparalleled life-experience in a wildly different culture.

Most volunteer programs in Vanuatu require at least a week-long commitment; but, after only a few hours on these stunning, tropical islands, you’ll be hooked and want to stay far longer. Long-term volunteer opportunities in Vanuatu are also available, and recommended for anyone looking to get their hands dirty and to really start to understand this wildly extraordinary country.

Costs & Affordability

The cost of living in Vanuatu varies; though locally grown food will be very cheap to buy, imported goods will set you back significantly. Therefore, buying from local markets and eating at kava bars, or at street food stalls, will ensure you keep within a reasonable daily budget for food of around $10. At local kava bars, delicious meals of laplap (meat and coconut meat cooked underneath the ground) cost as little as $1.50. If you decide to live with a local family while volunteering in Vanuatu, meals will likely be covered by program fees; and, by giving a helping hand in the kitchen, you’ll learn how to cook traditional island recipes, too! 

Transport by local bus shouldn’t set you back more than $2, but flying between islands is where costs can get eye-watering. At $200 for a one-way ticket, air travel is not cheap; therefore, investigating the numerous, though somewhat unreliable, local ferries can save you an awful lot of dollar, which may be better be spent on climbing Mt. Yasur Volcano or spending a lazy afternoon snorkelling. 

Volunteer programs in Vanuatu varying wildly in terms of price, and can include airport transfers, pre-departure information, and in-country support, as well as a range of other things. Just be sure to review what is included in your program before you leave home. 

Accommodation & Visas

If you decide to volunteer in Vanuatu, expect accommodation to be basic, especially if you choose to live in one of Vanuatu’s small cities, where you may not have access to 24 hour electricity, running water, or supermarkets. Volunteering in rural Vanuatu will be an adventure, but you will still be able to find a friendly face who can rustle you up a delicious local delicacy, such as flying fox stew. Yum! 

Cultural immersion will be at the heart of volunteer work in Vanuatu. You’ll likely find yourself living directly within a community, either with a local family in a homestay or in shared accommodation with other volunteers. Both housing options will provide an excellent opportunity for you to practice one of the native languages of Vanuatu, help out in a local family’s garden tending plants, or enjoy a glass of kava (a calming drink made from the piper methysticum root) in the hub of the village, typically called the nakamal or clubhouse. 

Visitors from most countries will not be required to obtain a visa to volunteer abroad in Vanuatu, as they will initially be allowed to stay for up to 30 days with only proof of onward travel. Once you’re in Vanuatu, it will be possible to extend your visa for a fee at a local immigration office. For the most up-to-date visa and travel information, refer to GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for Vanuatu. 

Benefits & Challenges

Volunteering in Vanuatu is not for the faint of heart. Given the activity of its volcanoes and its vulnerability to cyclones, the country finds itself quite exposed to natural disasters. However, daring travelers will discover how much this unexplored country is worth the risk, and that the rewards of working side-by-side with the proud ni-Vanuatu people will more than make up for any potential for disasters.

You’ll learn how adventurous life can be. Daily life will be a world away from what you’re used to, as you’ll quickly need to become accustomed to living in huts in the depths of a tropical jungle and learn about truly living life off the grid. Weekends can be spent revelling in all of the adventurous things to do in Vanuatu, and getting to know your new community.

Open up a world of future possibilities. The career benefits of volunteering in Vanuatu will also be plentiful. Future employers will be impressed by your ability to adapt to new contexts and overcome challenges, setting you firmly apart from the pack.

If you decide to volunteer abroad in Vanuatu, you’ll see the direct impact of your efforts to support social and economic development in a country facing distinct and complex challenges. Not only this, but time spent in this sensational nation will help you to encounter, and fall in love with a simple, more grounded way of life.

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