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Peace Corps/Kiribati began operations in 1973 with one Volunteer. Peace Corps/Solomon Islands administered the program fielding fewer than 10 Volunteers in various projects but focusing on education assignments. In 1979, the Republic of Kiribati gained independence and 12 health and water sanitation Volunteers arrived in addition to the education Volunteers. The first country director was assigned to Kiribati in 1988.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Kiribati
The Peace Corps presence in what would become the Republic of Kiribati began with the placement of a single Volunteer in 1973. Until 1988 the program was administered from the Peace Corps office in the Solomon Islands. During the early years, the number of Volunteers remained under 10 per year and assignments included a wide variety of projects. The first major expansion occurred in 1979 when the Republic of Kiribati was formed. Twelve health and water sanitation Volunteers began their service that year. Until 1987 Volunteers numbered between 12 and 18, and programming concentrated on education assignments. With the arrival of the first country director in 1988, the Peace Corps established an independently administered post on Tarawa, the capital of the Republic of Kiribati. From 1990 until 1997 about 15 to 20 Volunteers worked as teacher trainers, focusing on outer island primary schools.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Kiribati
All Volunteers in Kiribati are required to live with a host family during training. Volunteers are also assigned a host family, with whom they will live for the entire two years of service. This includes Volunteers living in South Tarawa. Understandably, many Volunteers have difficulty adjusting to this because it means giving up the independent living to which they are accustomed. Household rules, especially for women, are likely to be completely different and feel very restrictive compared to life in the United States. Yet, in most instances, the rewards are great. Living with a family makes it easier to learn the language, offers a much greater understanding of the culture, and ensures a safer and more secure environment for the Volunteer. Much of a Volunteer’s life in Kiribati will be based on interactions with his or her host family, which provide an entrance into the community.
Volunteers in Kiribati are placed on all of the islands in the Gilbert group. The greatest need is on the outer islands, and that is where almost all Volunteers are assigned. Most of the houses on the outer islands are made from local materials.
Houses have stick walls supported by larger posts in the ground and a thatched roof. Windows have no glass and are cut from sticks. There is usually a socializing buia (a raised platform) next to the house. All houses also have a roki (bathroom), which is either inside the house or nearby. The roki will have a water-sealed pit latrine. Bathing consists of dipping a cup in a bucket and pouring it over you. Clothes are washed by hand in buckets. Water is drawn from a nearby well. Volunteers sleep under mosquito nets. Peace Corps/ Kiribati provides heavy-duty wire fencing (referred to as security wire) to be installed in the Volunteers’ housing.
Main article: Training in Kiribati
Your first stop after leaving your home will be staging, where you will receive last-minute information about service in Kiribati and have the chance to rethink your commitment to Peace Corps service. Your flight to Kiribati may involve a one-night stopover in Fiji. Don’t unpack; you are not there yet! Once you arrive in Kiribati, you will begin the nine-and-one-half-week pre-service training program. One purpose of this training is to help trainees make an informed commitment before they are sworn-in as Peace Corps Volunteers.
Week one takes place on South Tarawa, where you may stay in a modest local hotel. The week includes an initial orientation to Kiribati and Peace Corps staff, along with completion of some preliminary medical and administrative paperwork. There will also be language, cross-cultural, and project overview sessions. During week two, you will visit a current Volunteer at his or her site on an outer island to gain a realistic perspective of Volunteer life and work. This will help you take full advantage of the learning opportunities presented during training. The rest of the training occurs on North Tarawa, where you will be dispersed in small groups to villages away from the training center and live with a host family. Language and cross-cultural instructors accompany each small group and will live and work with you in the community. They will be staying with other host families. Your host family will provide you with lodging and food throughout training. You will come to the training center about once a week as a group for technical, medical, and core training (which covers safety and security, administration, and Peace Corps policies).
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Kiribati
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Kiribati maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional limited medical services, such as evaluation and treatments, are also available in Kiribati at Tungaru Central Hospital. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported to an American-standard medical facility in the region, to Australia, or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Kiribati
In Kiribati, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of Tarawa, residents of the outer islands have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Kiribati are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Kiribati
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Kiribati?
- What is the electric current in Kiribati?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Kiribati?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing List for Kiribati
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Kiribati and is based on their experiences. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage as far as Peace Corps’ official reimbursement. Air Pacific, which you will take for the last leg of your trip has a 20 kg. (44 lbs.) checked baggage allowance and doesn’t allow large carry-on items. If you are charged extra, Peace Corps/Kiribati will reimburse you, but only up to your 80-pound Peace Corps’ limit. Remember, you can get almost everything you need in Kiribati.
- General Clothing
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Educational Materials
- Volunteers who served in Kiribati
- List of resources for Kiribati
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports