Talofa lava and welcome!

By Deidre Fanene ,

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Samoa welcomed 17 new Peace Corps volunteers from the United States of America yesterday.

An ava ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture gave the volunteers a taste of Samoa. Present at the welcome was Peace Corp’s Country Director, Dr. Sherry Russell, M.E.S.C C.E.O, Afamsaga Dr. Karoline Fuatai and the U.S. Embassy’s Acting Chargé d’ Affaires Lynda Hinds.

According to the release issued by the U.S. Embassy, the group will spend their first 10 weeks in a pre-service training programme, which will include learning the Samoan language and culture along with technical training.

The first week of the training will take place in Apia, followed by nine weeks in a village setting. In mid-December, the volunteers will travel to their new sites in villages throughout Samoa to spend time getting to know their communities over the Christmas holidays. In January they will attend an additional week of technical training to prepare for the start of the 2018 school year.

Jacob Fanning, from South Carolina, is among the new volunteers. He is excited about what is up ahead. 

 “I chose to come to Samoa because I have always wanted to come to the South Pacific,” he said. “I know there will be a lot of challenges but I love teaching and especially I love to work around the young kids so I’m sure I will enjoy the new journey a lot.

 “One of the challenges that I will be facing is the language barrier but that is why I chose teaching and that is why I chose to come to be a volunteer so I could learn.”

For Mr. Fanning, he said nothing makes me happier than to see an expression on someone’s face when they finally understand what he/she is being taught.

THAT BUS: The new volunteers are ready to make  difference to Samoa. Photo Misiona Simo
THAT BUS: The new volunteers are ready to make difference to Samoa. Photo Misiona Simo
BEFORE THAT THOUGH: They get a taste of the ceremonial welcome drink, the ava. Photo Misiona Simo
BEFORE THAT THOUGH: They get a taste of the ceremonial welcome drink, the ava. Photo Misiona Simo

“That is why I chose this career and if I can see that expression one student’s face I know that I have helped someone,” he said. 

The government of Samoa first requested the assistance of the Peace Corps in 1967.  Since then, more than 2000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Samoa providing small-scale technical assistance and building cross-cultural ties.  

This group of Volunteers will work under a partnership with the Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture to promote teaching and learning capacities in English Literacy. The new volunteers, who range in age from their early 20s to their 40s, will spend two years living and working in Samoan villages serving as English Resource Teachers in government primary schools. 

 “It is an honor to welcome to Samoa a fresh contingent of Peace Corps volunteers,” U.S. Embassy Acting Chargé d’Affaires Lynda Hinds said. 

“The Peace Corps celebrates 50 years in Samoa this year, having formed a deep, enduring partnership with the people of Samoa since 1967.  Peace Corps volunteers over the years have formed countless relationships with Samoan families, and I have no doubt that this new group will be just as warmly welcomed by the Samoan people as their predecessors have been.”

Volunteers choose to serve in Samoa for a variety of reasons.  Some want to make a difference in students’ lives.  As one Volunteer said, “As an educator I believe that literacy is the key to the world.  My primary aspiration is to get my students excited about reading and writing.”  Another added, “I realize how important education is in the hopes of accomplishing dreams and goals in life”.  Other Volunteers are eager to learn about Samoa and building lasting bonds within their communities. “I hope to become as much a part of my community as possible, attending church, spending time with my host family and students, forming bonds with the people around me, coupling respect with friendship and hopefully [one day] earning my place as a community member myself,” articulated one.

 These volunteers will live and work in Samoa throughout the 2018 and 2019 school years.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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