Be the Change. Be a Global Volunteer in the Cook Islands.
Help secure the future of youth.
As a volunteer in the Cook Islands, you’ll help children and teens reach their full potential through education, health and social service projects. Our community partners are committed to enabling you to share your skills and talents. Rarotonga is a small island – just 26 miles around – so you’re quickly acquainted with the local people in one of the most beautiful places on Earth! See Covid-19 requirements.
Genuine development projects to help children thrive. Service-learning programs for families, groups and individuals.
Because Cook Islanders honor their strong oral Maori tradition, some students do not formally learn English until the 4th grade. As a volunteer in the Cook Islands, you work one-on-one with children, primarily through reading and other engaging activities to advance their English proficiency.
Environment and Conservation
Work alongside environmental scientists at the Takitumu conservation area. Plant seedlings, clear walking areas, repair existing trails, clear fallen trees, and do light construction. You will discover one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Administration and Finance
If you have experience in organizational management, grant writing, accounting or bookkeeping, you can help draft bylaws and funding proposals, or help establish and teach sustainable accounting systems.
Early Childhood Education
Stimulate children 1 to 5 years old through arts and crafts, reading storybooks, playing with toys, teaching hand washing with soap and water, and more. As a volunteer in the Cook Islands, you invest in the future through the youngest of citizens.
Repair and Maintenance
Do you like to work with your hands? Can you wield a paintbrush or pound a hammer? Help protect and maintain school facilities by painting, repairing, and reconstructing buildings, and providing plumbing, carpentry, and electrical assistance.
Are your math skills sharp? Work one-on-one and in small groups on numeracy and math comprehension with Cook Island students of all ages.
Dates & Fees
Upcoming Volunteer Dates in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Arrival and Departure
Leave the details to us!
Several airlines such as Delta Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines offer flights to Rarotonga International Airport (airport code RAR). Some of them fly through Papeete (PPT), Tahiti and others through Auckland (AKL), New Zealand. Plan to arrive anytime on the program’s start date (Sunday). Our Country Manager will meet you and your teammates and transport you 10 miles to the hotel. The program begins with dinner and team orientation. If you are serving on a one- or two-week service program, you may depart anytime on the final Friday, Saturday or Sunday. For the three-week service programs, you may depart anytime on the final Friday or Saturday.
Food and Lodging
Rest and comfort for a productive program.
Your secure family-owned hotel near Rarotonga features seaside rooms with a private bathroom, a flat-screen TV, and in-room coffee and tea. Fall asleep to the rhythm of waves crashing the shore outside your door. Steps away, the hotel pool is surrounded by a lovely garden area, and swaying palm trees.
- 24-hour onsite staff
- Single room available for an extra fee
- Landscaped campus with pool
Cook Islands cuisine features spectacular seafood, meat, tropical fruits, vegetables, and rice. Meals are at local restaurants and prepared by a local cook. Breakfast is self-serve in the private kitchen/meeting room, where you can also pack your lunch and enjoy snacks. Bottled water is provided daily.
Health and Safety
Your lodging, food and transportation are provided always with a mind to protect you while at the work site and in your hotel. Your team leader is trained in CPR and first aid. Read more about health and safety here.
Most community projects are indoors, but sunburn and heat stroke are risks in tropical climates. You’ll be provided with plenty of bottled water to keep yourself hydrated. Surprisingly, in this laid-back culture traffic accidents are one of the most common hazards on this small island. Your team leader will advise you how to protect your safety while walking along the road, crossing the street or riding in a vehicle. Dengue fever and Chikungunya, transferred by mosquitoes, are sometimes present on the island. We provide mosquito nets for your bed. Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing and apply mosquito repellent daily to prevent mosquito bites.
We strongly recommend you consult your own physician, public health clinic and/or travel clinic for detailed travel health information and preventative measures. For general recommendations, consult the following sources:
Global Volunteers includes emergency medical evacuation insurance in your service program fee. We also recommend health insurance that covers you while you are outside your home country and trip cancellation insurance in the event you must cancel your participation in the service program. Your travel agent can refer you to travel insurance providers. Click here to read the risks associated with international travel.
The Cook Islands Ministry of Education requires all adult volunteers to provide a current police background check and clearance through the national sex offender registry prior to volunteering. These background checks must be current and not obtained until two months prior to your program start date. More details and instructions will be provided after registering for a program.
Your team leader is eager to welcome you!
Samantha (Sam) Puati-Ellison leads all Cook Islands Service Programs. Sam has been in and amongst Global Volunteers since 2008 when her parents (James and Debbie) were leading teams. Sam has a bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She has worked in Education for the past 10 years. Sam and her husband Raniera have three children and love living the island life on Rarotonga. She enjoys all sports but loves to be on the water paddling on her outrigger canoe. Sam is the president of her outrigger canoeing club – Te Tupu O te Manava, as well as President for the Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation.
Oh the sights you’ll see!
Ample time is available after the work day and on weekends to enjoy the numerous natural and cultural attractions on Rarotonga. Your country managers provide basic language instruction and arrange for cultural talks and demonstrations (such as flower garland or ‘ei’ (lei) making, coconut art, island conservation activities and the like.) You can also expect to be invited to church socials and dance performances each week. Cook Island dancing is considered the most sensual in the South Pacific, and each island has its own special songs and dances to tell stories of history. Cook Island children learn and practice dancing from a very young age, performing regularly at various events throughout the year. Considered among the finest Polynesian singers and dancers, Cook Islanders often win international awards for their expression. Traditional costumes for dancing are made from bark cloth, grass or raffia and are decorated with leaves, feathers, shells and flowers, topped with magnificent traditional feather headgear. Read additional FAQs here.
Most volunteers enjoy walking the beautiful beaches at all times of day, biking along back roads, swimming in the clear blue lagoons, and engaging in other water sports such as snorkeling, sea kayaking, sailing or windsurfing. You can participate in off-road mountain trips and reef-walking, whale-watching, and glass-bottom boat tours. Shopping the traditional market as well as the popular downtown shops is an engaging pastime. A highlight is a weekend trip to the outer island of Aitutaki, reknowned as the most beautiful island in the South Pacific.
An unmatched family volunteering opportunity.
Volunteering together in the South Pacific can be the highlight of your family life! Children ages 8 to 18 can serve along with their parents or guardian in classrooms and small groups of children and teens. Your volunteer coordinator will work with you to find the ideal program schedule and partner community to meet your family volunteering goals.
For instance, pre-teens can often tutor children the same age – and practice English through stories, songs, games, skits, art projects and the like. Cook Island children are bright and accepting of volunteers of all ages – and like children worldwide – love to talk about friends, movies and family life. Our partners readily welcome child volunteers into their classrooms! Mature teens can team-teach with a parent, paint and help landscape, work in a library, or nurture pre-schoolers.
Chose program dates during school breaks and summer vacations. Parents and guardians are expected to supervise their child volunteers, and collaborate with our team leader and local partners to maximize the service experience for everyone. Youth are invited to offer their own perspectives in team meetings and fully participate in free-time activities. In this way, your child can form a rare, personal perspective of this remote country beyond what they can find online, in school or in personal study. What’s more, they’ll gain life-long friends in one of the most exotic, beautiful islands in the South Pacific!
To ensure a positive experience for everyone, you must comply with Global Volunteers’ minor supervision policy.
A spectacular setting for group volunteering!
What can be more exotic than volunteering as a group with Global Volunteers in the Cook Islands? Because of the wide variety of community projects, every member of your group can fully engage their unique skills and interests in meaningful service to children. Learn about each other in a non-traditional way as an intact volunteer team, and know that your unique contributions on genuine development projects advance the futures of those you serve.
Groups volunteering together on Rarotonga discover what tourists never experience. Inside classrooms, community centers, homes, clinics, libraries, offices and museums as a short-term community member, you gain a rare, “insider” perspective of daily life. Participating in local dance and music, learning lei-making from the experts, hearing the Maori language and experiencing customs and local events with your hosts take you beyond the typical island tour. Around the pool or on the beach with your teammates, you compare notes to paint a mural of true understanding and respect. Nothing can replace the experience of volunteering together and experiencing the culture of the South Pacific as you live it.
“Each day, we count our blessings that we have been very lucky to have Global Volunteers come to us. They are all very interesting, very willing to do anything we place in front of them. But, most importantly, their presence is the inspiration needed to unite peoples of different cultures. We thank you deeply and warmly.”
Johnny FrisbieCook Islands Library and Museum
“It was an amazing, rewarding, and unforgettable journey as I learned that volunteering IS good for the soul.”
Debbie O’ConnorCook Islands Volunteer
“I’d be in town or at the weekly market and someone would greet me by name. The niece of the therapist I was working with invited me to her school dance competition. Then it clicked – I was no longer a tourist. I was part of the community. It was way more than I could have ever anticipated.”
Sharolyn FredricksonCook Islands Volunteer
“You don’t need any special training to do this…just a willingness to jump in and help out. The impact over years is most rewarding, and one of the reasons I keep returning.”
Dennis Killeen16-time Volunteer, OH
“My one-time curiosity has turned into 9 years of annual volunteer trips to Rarotonga. I return because I have a connection with the teachers at St Joseph’s Primary, to the shopkeepers, to the Global Volunteers who serve every year, but mostly I cherish my connection with the students, whom I taught in Grade 1 and now are vibrant Grade 6 students. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of their lives if only for three weeks a year.”
Ellen Holzschuh9-time Cook Islands volunteer