Volunteering in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
Discover volunteering opportunities in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a tropical marvel of 29 coral atolls in the northern Pacific Ocean.
About the Republic of the Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is located in the Pacific Ocean 4,000 kilometres northeast of Australia. It’s a small country, with a population of just 53,000 people, and is one of only two countries in the world made entirely of low-lying coral atolls.
The country’s 180 square kilometres of land is dwarfed by nearly 2 million square kilometres of pristine ocean with stunning coral reefs and marine wildlife.
Due to its small scale, limited resources, and dispersed population, economic opportunities in the Republic of the Marshall Islands are limited. It has a small fishing and services industry, and is primarily supported by the United States of America. The country receives an average of 5,000 tourists a year – the world’s second lowest.
Australian volunteers in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
Australian volunteers have supported a wide range of partner organisations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands to achieve their development goals since 1989.
Volunteering opportunities in the Republic of the Marshall Islands support communities across a range of development priorities, including:
- Good governance
- Climate change resilience
- Sustainable economic development
- Empowerment of women and girls
- Domestic violence
Using the traditional ingredient jekaro, which is sap from the coconut tree, this recipe is a favourite of our local team.
Download the recipe for Jekaro Brioche Bread
Life as a volunteer in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
Culture and religion
Despite increasing westernisation, the culture of the Republic of the Marshal Islands continues to thrive. Strong ties bind large, extended families together, creating close-knit communities that are rooted in values of sharing, kindness, and respect. In Marshallese culture, the needs of the family and clan are valued over those of the individual.
Religion plays a large role in society. Most Marshallese people are strongly committed to practicing Protestantism.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands boasts a proud culture called manit, which revolves around family, co-operation, and warm hospitality. Some Marshallese have American, German, or Japanese ancestry in addition to their indigenous culture.
Society is matrilineal and land is passed down from generation to generation through the mother. Land ownership ties families together into clans, and grandparents, parents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins form extended, close-knit family groups.
Local dress is generally casual, 'island style', though slightly conservative. At a minimum, women must cover their thighs, and most women wear long skirts or short-sleeved muumuus (even when swimming), which cover their shoulders and legs.
There are two official languages: Marshallese and English. Marshallese is an Austronesian language that shares numerous affinities with other Pacific languages, particularly those of eastern Micronesia.
Opportunities to learn Marshallese are available to volunteers.
The most ubiquitous Marshallese word—used for hello, goodbye, and love—is iakwe, pronounced “yawk-way”. Literally translated, it means, “you are a rainbow”.
The maritime tropical climate is hot and humid, with little seasonal temperature change. The region is known for mild winds and tropical showers. The islands are humid and hot, with the driest period being from December to April
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is one of the Micronesian nations taking a lead in dealing with the impact of climate change, and is expected to be one of the first overtaken by rising sea levels.
Droughts are common, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands can experience up to six months of little-to-no rain.
Telephone and internet are available, and there are hotspots where prepaid internet can be used. Texting is the most frequent mode of communication.
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 12-month rental contract is expected, although some hotels may offer a monthly rate while you search for something suitable.
Food and dining
Different fruits are grown in different seasons, including noni, lime, pandanus, breadfruit, and cassava.
Restaurants and bars are available. American-style fast food and Asian are the most common international cuisines. Alcohol is not sold on Sundays.
There is no public transportation system in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Shared public taxis are available in Majuro, which will frequently stop to pick up and drop off passengers.
Travelling around the Republic of the Marshall Islands is safe, but volunteers should be cautious of petty theft.
Inundation and king tides are becoming more frequent as the sea-level continues to rise.
Severe weather conditions can cause flooding of roads and inundation at the shoreline.
We’re committed to ensuring that international volunteering is inclusive and accessible to Australians from a range of backgrounds, with diverse perspectives, identities and abilities.
To support this, access and inclusion plans are available for volunteers with disabilities to assess their needs and ensure their living and working requirements are fully considered. Indigenous Pathways is an Indigenous-led program that focuses on providing culturally safe, flexible and tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers.
Before applying for a volunteering assignment in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, please do some further research on living in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the organisation you are hoping to volunteer with. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to discuss expected living and working arrangements with their recruitment officer.
Julie and Peter Wren spent a year volunteering in the Marshall Islands with their two young children. They had a profound experience as a family.