Are you ready to soak up true island life? Vanuatu is the untouched paradise you’re looking for. While we think you’ll love the blue lagoons hiding in the jungle and the chance to lounge on deserted beaches, get ready to love the people and the culture even more. Walk through the palm-fringed streets of your village. Soak up all the sunshine. Wave to the “friendliest people on earth” — the community here is like one big family that you’ll instantly be a part of.
Volunteers in our South Pacific program spend teaching English to children in this humanitarian program, with plenty of free time to explore. Come fall in love with the people and the country of Vanuatu.
Get ready to to discover corners of the globe that only a handful of people have seen. Come live on the island of Efate, in a small village near the nation’s capital city. You’ll be surrounded by a unique culture and 82 other islands. Join a group of volunteers who will all be living, teaching, exploring, and traveling together. A semester here is all about stepping into the local culture and becoming a part of that tight-knit community found on the island. This is a rugged and remote island experience that comes with some challenges. This program is a best fit for flexible, positive, easy going volunteers who want the biggest kinds of adventures and want to really embrace the ups and downs of living abroad.
It’s not an experience for everyone, but if you’re thinking “that’s the right country for me!”, we know you’ll love your new island home! Here’s a sneak peek at what a typical day is like in Vanuatu:
Glimpse a day in Vanuatu
The culture here is really welcoming. Oh, and your neighbors are all related, even if they’re not really. You’ll live right next to someone’s auntie, and a family friend who isn’t really an uncle, but everyone calls him that anyway. Welcome to the family! Though you’ll be living in a house with your fellow volunteers, it’s not hard to be close to your friendly neighbors. The people here are a huge part of your ILP experience. Ni-Vans are known to be the “happiest people in the world”, focused on family and community. Because you’ll be moving into that tight-knit community, you’ll be expected to follow the local customs and island traditions found here in this village.
Alright, onto breakfast. Your group gets a stipend for breakfast so you all sit out on the balcony, soaking up the tropical views while you eat freshly baked bread and local fruit. Yum! You have some free time after breakfast to do some exploring. You’re not teaching until the afternoon, so plenty of time to hop on a minibus to explore a new corner of the island. Before class, some cute “local mamas” cook up some lunch before you need to leave. You’ll eat lots of classic island staples like rice, eggs, chicken, hot dogs, fish, fresh fruits and veggies (like avocado, pineapple, papaya, cucumber, and tomato). Another popular dish? Yams wrapped in banana leaves and cooked deep in the ground. Then, that’s all drizzled with coconut milk. These sweet ladies will also be cooking your dinner, so you’ll have a real taste of the local culture with every local meal. Anything imported is really expensive, so plan on having meals made with ingredients that can be grown on the island.
Your whole group teaches at a nearby school, which is converted from someone’s house. It’s a very short walk, and the kids are so excited when you get there. In fact, they’re already begging for a day at the beach after class ends. The beach is just a five minute walk from the school so that’s hard to say “no” to! The classrooms are really open-air, with no A/C, mats to sit on instead of desks and chairs, and clear views of the ocean, especially from the small playground. That playground is made up of old tires, and a tin roof pavilion. The people here are so resourceful and have become self-sufficient with what the island has to offer. Many families live off their gardens, selling some of their organic fruit and veggies at little roadside stands you’ll see all over the islands (which is a huge perk for you).
While you have free time during the week, your weekends off mean time for so many adventures. Your island is crammed full of the best of the best in Vanuatu. We’re talking turquoise lagoons, and kayaking the coastline for hidden coves, spotting turtles along the way. Plus, soooooo many pretty beaches. The water here is unbelievably clear, a bright aqua that doesn’t look real. You’ll have vacation days too, but think you’ll want to explore all Efate has to offer.
HELP KIDS IN VANUATU LEARN ENGLISH
Come teach by the beach! In this Humanitarian Program, you’ll be making a difference by helping young kids learn English, up to 20 hours per week. No experience is needed, we provide training on our teaching method! You’ll mostly be teaching young kids who are 3-6 years old, and possibly some older students who are in 2nd and 3rd grade (cute).
Volunteering and Costs
Teaching English in Vanuatu goes so far. One of the main languages of the island nation is Bislama. It’s a creole language based in English with some French influence. Bislama’s an important part of the culture, but there is also quite a bit of English on the island, too. In Vanuatu, classes are taught in both languages, but there’s a catch. In school, classes are mostly taught in the primary language (English) but Bislama is used to help make sure the class understands what’s being taught. That all changes in 4th grade. Then, classes are entirely in English and no Bislama is used. Can you imagine having classes in one language, then suddenly switching around 10 years old? These kiddos are often unprepared when they make the switch, which tends to contribute to a high drop out rate. Through ILP classes, you’ll be teaching young kids as a part of an after school English program, giving them a head start for when they start English classes in the 3rd grade.
ILP classes are built on a one-on-one teaching method, a rarity in this country where there is a teacher shortage. To put it bluntly, there are simply not enough teachers. In some schools, a single teacher is trying to teach three full classrooms at the same time. They’re running between the rooms and giving students as much attention as one person can. Because ILP volunteers focus on smaller groups, students get more individual time with a teacher, which is not only unique, but incredibly valuable to these kids. There’s also a chance volunteers will be able to step into schools as a teacher’s aide.
Teaching is always a huge part of the ILP experience. Many alumni say that it’s the hardest but most rewarding part of their semester. That is certainly the case in Vanuatu. The teacher shortage, young ages, backgrounds, cultural nuances, and language experience all contribute to a challenging teaching experience. You’ll receive teacher training before departure but this is something Vanuatu volunteers should be aware of.
Why is the program fee higher here? Unlike the Exchange Program, the families of the children you work with will not be helping to subsidize your costs. All the children you are working with come from very limited means, and the service you provide is completely free for them. Thank you for wanting to provide the best care and service for these kids by volunteering in this humanitarian program.
Interested in other ways you’re needed? Compare ILP’s Humanitarian Programs here.
Pango, a community just outside of the capital Port Vila on the island of Efate
—Spring: Depart mid January/mid February – return late April/mid May
—Summer: Depart early/late May – return early/late August
—Fall: Depart mid August/late September – return early/mid December, just in time for Christmas
—about 10 volunteers in a group
—18-about 25ish years old
—US and Canadian volunteers
—No experience needed!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
Our Vanuatu program was paused following the start of the pandemic, but were so happy to reopen for the Spring 2023 semester! This tiny island has been very diligent about protecting their community from the virus (as were surrounding nations). International travelers have not been allowed to enter for the last two years, but the time has finally come —Borders have reopened and they are again welcoming travelers to Vanuatu — Volunteers going to Vanuatu must have their Covid-19 vaccine. We are so excited to start watching your adventures here again!
EXPLORING THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Have a semester of adventures in this slice of Pacific paradise! In Vanuatu, the islands are rimmed with colorful coral reefs, topped with active volcanoes, and covered with dense rainforests hiding plunging waterfalls. Spend time in the ocean and dive down to shipwrecks from WWII. Or kayak to natural swimming spots that haven’t hit Instagram yet if you’re sick of spending time on the pristine, white sand beaches.
While there’s more than enough to keep you happy with all of these islands, you can also travel over to spots like Australia and Fiji on vacation … but honestly? Why would you! With a chain of islands boasting completely isolated beaches and adventures that aren’t flooded with tourists, we think you’ll be more than happy island hopping here all semester long.
Here are just a few of our favorite islands and places for your vacations —
Efate — Your island home is fringed coral coves and that pristine turquoise water. Talk about paradise! Come for waterfalls, snorkeling trips, jungle trekking and more. Plus, have the chance to glimpse local island life. A handful of tiny islands home to native tribes and active volcanoes are just a boat ride away.
Pele + Nguna — People call these islands the “Pacific Island Paradise”, so don’t miss out. Between Pele and Nguna is a protected marine reserve, a safe haven for your favorite ocean friends. It’s one of the best places to snorkel in the country. Or, hop in a kayak and explore the aqua blue coastline. These two gems are just a short boat ride from Efate.
Champagne Beach, Espiritu Santo — This spot tops the chart of the world’s best beaches. It’s complete with clear baby-blue water and sugar white sand in a calm cove. Are you totally in love yet? Dip into the water and see if you can spot turtles and manta rays hanging out by the reef. Welcome to actual paradise.
Matevulu Blue Hole, Espiritu Santo — While there are a few of these natural swimming spots dotting the island chain, this one found on Espirtu Santo is our favorite. You can only get here by kayak. Paddle up the river, with the lush jungle on either side of you to get there. And once you make it up the crystal river? Find rope swings strung up in a huge banyan tree and the most picture perfect swimming spot, all to yourself.
Tanna — A remote island home to black sand beaches, and the chance to trek to hike up to an active volcano. Peer over the edge to see lava spitting out from the crater, then glimpse rural villages home to local tribes, with a bright and vibrant culture. Adrenaline junkies can try ashboarding, here too! It’s kind of like snowboarding on the ashy slopes of this volcano.
New Zealand — Choose between the Northern and Southern islands for a vacation full of rugged mountains and gigantic glaciers. Spend time on golden sand beaches, too. Then cap it off, visit sites made famous by the Lord of the Rings.
Fiji — Another island chain home to baby blue water and Instagram-famous bungalows. You’ll find similar ocean views, beaches, snorkel adventures, and more tourists on a quick vacay over here.
Australia — Take a trip to Australia, visiting big modern cities like Sydney to see the world-famous Opera House. Or, explore their Golden Coast. Before leaving, hang out with koalas and kangaroos. We have a feeling a vacay in the world down under is going to be hard to resist.
New Caledonia — A quick, 90 minute flight and you’ll feel like you’re visiting the tropical version of France. This set of islands has a huge French influence, so stop by the capital for fresh baked croissants and European architecture. Lastly, fit in some white-sand beaches and island hopping.