Sinead Mahood, from the quiet town of Kerikeri in Northern New Zealand, spent three months in Samoa on a teaching placement with Projects Abroad.
Thriving in her new surroundings she opted to extend her stay.
After what was initially supposed to be a worthwhile break from study, Sinead has now taken up permanent residence on the island.
Love of the island began to blossom amid a teaching placement.
“I found teaching so rewarding as the children really wanted to learn,” she said.
The cultural divide between the Pacific islands and the western world, is at its most evident as Sinead noted the difference in Samoan children’s perception and attitude towards education.
“The kids in Samoa enjoy class, which is unusual in comparison with New Zealand.”
Life as a volunteer teacher inspired Sinead to continue to work with Projects Abroad as Samoa’s ‘Volunteer Co-Ordinator’.
“I enjoy working here, because it allows me to see the island and in turn, meet new people with similar interests.”
Living with at the Malaki’s, a host family, in Vaitele-Fou “was exactly the experience I was hoping for. They made me feel at home and are ultimately the reason I’m staying here.”
She spoke about the difference between staying in a hotel where a traveller generally only experiences the surface of a “The host family give you more of a real life perspective,” she added.
The difference in family hierarchies is something that has been evident during her stay. “Back home children don’t always appreciate their privileged lives. Here the children have some responsibility and are proud to help out their families.”
This family orientated culture is something that really impressed Sinead, as she states “it’s all part of the Christian ethics of the country. Everyone is so friendly”. Religion is a central part of a Samoan’s identity.
Having learnt Maori at school “I found picking up the language easy” which allowed Sinead to picture her life on the island and broke down the barrier.
“Samoan life is idyllic; once I’d seen it, I had to stay”.
The approachable people and the stress free ambiance made it too hard to Sinead to leave!