History of the Peace Corps in Vanuatu
Despite intermittent talks between the government of the newly independent Republic of Vanuatu and the Peace Corps through the 1980s, a country agreement was not signed until 1989. The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Port Vila in late 1989. During the first four years of its existence (October 1989 to August 1993), the Peace Corps/Vanuatu program was administered by Peace Corps/Solomon Islands. Following the initial programming assessment trip, the Peace Corps decided to focus resources and Volunteers in the education sector. The first three Volunteers arrived in 1989, and they were assigned to teach either math or science at two different junior secondary schools. They were followed a year later by three additional math and science teachers.
The third group of Peace Corps Volunteers, three small business advisors assigned to work at the Development Bank of Vanuatu, arrived in mid-1991. They trained bank personnel assigned to the various branch offices located around the country. These Volunteers were soon followed by what would be the last contingent of math and science teachers assigned to the junior secondary school system. By the time these Volunteers completed their service in December 1993, the Ministry of Education was confident that Vanuatu no longer needed such teachers. Unfortunately, this assessment turned out to be inaccurate so the Peace Corps continued to provide assistance in this area. This group also included the first Volunteer assigned to a rural training center.
The second group of small business advisors arrived in November 1992, bringing the total number of Volunteers in-country to 11, divided across five different assignment areas. To assist in the day-to-day management of the program, a Peace Corps representative/nurse was hired. However, it became increasingly clear that the program could not be efficiently managed and administered from Honiara, almost 1,000 miles away, so a Peace Corps office in Port Vila opened in September 1993. Establishing a permanent, day-to-day presence in Vanuatu led to a more collaborative and mutually productive relationship with the government. This permanent presence also allowed the Peace Corps to explore new programming areas and increase the number of Volunteers who could be effectively and efficiently supported in-country.
In 1993, there were 10 Volunteers in-country, this number increased to 16 in January 1994. This number had tripled by 1998, and by 2000 there were 50 Volunteers. Most Volunteers continued to be placed in education assignments in secondary schools, rural training centers and communities. In 2001, the Peace Corps recruited its first youth development Volunteers to work in the Vanuatu’s Department of Youth and Sports. These Volunteers worked in activities related to environment, youth development, business development and agriculture.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Vanuatu
Peace Corps Volunteers contribute in very important ways to Vanuatu’s national goal of increasing opportunities for Ni-Vanuatu, particularly those living in rural areas. Volunteers support the work of development partners that include government departments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), local institutions and communities. Ni-Vanuatu counterparts work with Volunteers to build capacity and to make projects sustainable beyond the service of the Volunteer.
The Peace Corps program in Vanuatu helps: Ni-Vanuatu increase opportunities for education and training and improve the quality of education for young people; communities develop and implement strategies for the wise and sustainable use of their marine, terrestrial, and cultural resources; identify and promote opportunities for income generation by Ni-Vanuatu through a hands-on approach to training, production, and the marketing of products and services; promote sustainable and integrated agricultural systems that balance livelihood security, income generation, and environmental conservation; increase awareness of and empower communities to improve the quality of community health; encourage youth and women to take an active, leading roles in development; and facilitate the delivery of other important development programs and resources to rural communities and institutions.
Volunteers are divided between two projects: the Strengthening Human Resources through Education Project (SHREP), and the Resource Stewardship, Enterprise Promotion, Agriculture, and Community Health (REACH) Project. With SHREP, Volunteers work as in-service trainers of primary school teachers; teachers of math, science and information technology (IT) at secondary schools; and capacity builders at rural vocational training centers. We are also gradually increasing the number of rural training centers that we work with and assisting more students with curriculum development. In 2002, Peace Corps placed the first primary school teacher trainers to work with zone curriculum advisors for the Department of Primary Education.
Peace Corps/Vanuatu currently has 80 Volunteers serving as:
- secondary school teachers
- rural training center instructors
- primary school teacher trainers
- youth development workers
- cooperative and business development advisors
- environmental conservation advisors
- agro-enterprise advisors
Volunteers involved in REACH facilitate development opportunities for women and youth; promote stewardship of natural resources, encourage sustainable and viable business and agriculture opportunities, build the capacity of communities, and help improve community health.
There are Volunteers on 18 of the most populated islands and this coverage will gradually expand. Peace Corps/Vanuatu looks forward to continuing to provide quality programming that responds to the needs and aspirations of the Ni-Vanuatu people.