Volunteering in Palau
Discover volunteering opportunities in Palau, a tightly-clustered archipelago of 340 picturesque islands east of the Philippines.
Palau is a small island nation. With 18,000 people it has the world’s fourth smallest population, and is the 16th smallest country by area.
Politically, the nation is governed by a structure of states, which are divided into municipalities. Each of these municipalities have both a tribal chiefdom, and an elected legislature. The United States of America takes responsibility for protecting Palau from foreign threats as the nation does not have its own military.
Tourism is a large part of the economy, with 140,000 people visiting the country in 2016. In 2017, the country became the first in the world to require tourists to sign an ‘Eco-Pledge’ upon arrival – a stamped pledge in their passports that states they will be a good environmental steward throughout their stay.
In other firsts, in 2009 Palau was the first country to create a shark sanctuary within its waters, banning all commercial shark fishing to help species recover. They were also the first country to ban ‘reef-toxic’ sunscreens to stop chemical pollution from damaging coral and marine life.
Australian volunteers in Palau
Australian volunteers have supported a wide range of Palauan partner organisations to achieve their development goals since 1993.
Volunteering opportunities in Palau support communities across a range of development priorities, including:
- Women’s empowerment, including economic empowerment
- Sustainable and economic growth
Palau has a popular saying: “fish is always best on the same day as the catch”. The program team in Palau share Grilled Snapper with newly found Palauan friends.
Download the recipe for Grilled Snapper
Life as a volunteer in Palau
Culture and religion
Palauan culture is based around a clan society with a complex matriarchal system. Following traditional structures, Palauan villages are organized around clans, and governed by a council of chiefs from the ten ranking clans.
The indigenous Palauan religion of powerful ancestral and nature spirits was supplanted by Christianity brought by missionaries from the 19th century. Slightly more than half the population is Roman Catholic, and just over a quarter is Protestant.
Palauan (a tekoi er a Belau) is a Malayo-Polynesian language native to the Republic of Palau and one of two official languages alongside English. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn Palauan.
Palau's climate is tropical, with relatively constant humidity. Temperatures vary little, with average lows of 23°C and highs of 31°C year-round.
Both mobile and internet telecommunications are available. Landline calls within Palau are free.
Diet and dining out
Palau has many restaurants and bars, most commonly with American, Asian and Indian cuisine.
There are two main supermarkets and one local produce store. Volunteers with particular dietary requirements (such as Coeliac) may find it challenging to source appropriate ingredients locally.
Fruit bat soup is a local delicacy that can be found on the menu at restaurants.
Volunteers stay in apartments and houses. Volunteers will be supported by the in-country team to find appropriate accommodation, and word of mouth is often the best way to find suitable options. Generally a six or twelve-month rental contract is expected, although some hotels may offer a monthly rate while you search for something suitable.
The vast majority of Palau’s islands are paved. While car hire is available, most volunteers purchase a secondhand car. Taxis are limited on the island and therefore not reliable.
Palau is a safe place to travel with low crime rates. In some areas there are local curfews, especially for school-aged children.
If applying to take up volunteering opportunities in Palau, it is a requirement that you research your assignment location. Successful applicants may be required to discuss expected living and working arrangements with their recruitment officer.