Most people living in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are Melanesian, but some are Micronesian or Polynesian. PNG has over 800 known languages although there are three official languages: Tok Pisin, English, and Hiri Motu. Numerous indigenous languages are still used by people from a society that ranges from traditional village-based life to modern urban living.
Underlying the Papua New Guinean culture is the wantok system. Wantok, or ‘one talk’, refers to the people who speak your language or your extended family/clan; a Papua New Guinean’s primary loyalty will be to their wantok. The country is predominately Christian, with indigenous faith and spirituality still important to many locals.
The people of Papua New Guinea are famously warm and hospitable and the isolated mountain ranges are often home to unique fauna and flora found nowhere else in the world.
VSA has been in Papua New Guinea since 1970. Since 2005, we have concentrated on working in the New Guinea Islands' three provinces: East New Britain, West New Britain and New Ireland.
Our volunteers work for local government and NGO partner organisations in diverse areas such as health, education, agriculture, nutrition, IT training and prevention of domestic violence.
One of the major focus areas of our work with the health sector is supporting the government to halt and reverse non-communicable diseases. VSA continues to work and collaborate with the biggest hospital (Nonga General Hospital) in the New Guinea Islands region to improve health outcomes for the people of East New Britain. VSA’s work in the education sector includes building and strengthening the capacity and capabilities of teachers and teacher trainees. VSA places volunteers in teacher training institutions and has helped educate more than 1700 trainee teachers.
VSA also supported Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) and the East New Britain Market Authority (ENBMA) to improve the livelihoods of vegetable farmers. Through improving skills in better sustainable horticultural practices, farmers were able to increase yields and improve the quality of fresh produce, resulting in more income. In the fisheries sector, we worked with the National Fisheries College (NFC) to strengthen its capacity in various areas.
VSA has a field office in Kokopo, East New Britain, staffed by a Programme Manager and a Programme Advisor.