Samoa Dive & Snorkel (S.D.S) has partnered with local school, Coral Reef Academy, to provide volunteer positions for students to learn and obtain leadership opportunities.
S.D.S. is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (P.A.D.I) five star rated certified dive shop. It sits next to the Home Café and across from Leifiifi College at Malifa.
Coral Reef Academy is a therapeutic boarding school helping struggling teens from all over the world located at Vaitele.
The school was founded in 1996 by Rodney Rice, an American Football Player from Brigham Young University.
He came to Samoa over 20 years ago and immediately saw the love and healthy family atmosphere Samoa provided to everyone and knew he wanted to help people like himself in such a place.
The students of Coral Reef Academy live in a campus in Vaitele for a large portion of their stay, and then go to another program called Transitional Living or Beyond the Reef.
There the students can work with Samoa Dive and Snorkel to exercise what they have learned at the school.
The writer met the Director of Transitional Living, Perelini Ulugia, who elaborated on what he does:
“I am a supervisor at transitional living. Transitional living is a part of Coral Reef Academy; it gives them an opportunity for students to ‘transition’ back into civilian life by working as volunteers and paying bills and doing things that normal people do.”
Perelini Ulugia – Transitional Living, Director
Ulugia said Samoa Dive and Snorkel is a fantastic environment for the students to exercise leadership qualities and the skills that they learned at Coral Reef Academy.
“The students work independently while staying connected to Coral Reef.”
Therapist at the school, Patrick Dotson, is excited about the partnership.
“Coral Reef Academy is a therapeutic boarding school designed to help struggling teenage boys struggling with family issues, drugs and school.
Coral Reef provides schooling and therapeutic services.
They also immerse the students in a community.
Patrick Dotson – Programme Therapist
“I work with many others, but I am the one who is tasked to help the boys as a therapist. My role is to ensure that their mental health needs are being met, providing a space where they can discuss and work through personal and family issues.
“Students live on the island for about a year.
The students come onto the island and spend their first month in a Samoan village to learn the Samoan way.
The students are on the campus for 8 months and then transition into a program called ‘Beyond the Reef’ where they work as volunteers and living normal life by doing things such as paying rent, cash power, and all things that an average person does and learns how to do these things through the program.
“I then went on to ask about Samoa Dive and Snorkel’s role in the program and was told that, “Samoa Dive and Snorkel’s professionalism and mindfulness to safe diving is very good.
Our boys have been able to work with Tyson Feekings and Justin Kelly, people outside of the program.
They have proven to be a positive place where students can come to work and they teach our boys and provide support to the boys to take advantage of what is around us.”
Patrick concluded: “I feel Coral Reef Academy is very good for the students, but it is up to the students to let it work.”
After talking with Patrick and Perelini, I reminisced about my time here on the island in that I was former student at Coral Reef Academy. I lived here for about a year and fell in love with the culture.
I actually was the first student to begin working with Samoa Dive and Snorkel. They provided me with a certification in Scuba Diving known as Rescue Diver.
The programme has a lot of really amazing aspects about it, it taught me many things, but the thing I loved most was its ability to immerse students in the culture and local work atmospheres like Samoa Dive and Snorkel.
I feel that what Samoa Dive and Snorkel is doing for the Students is an amazing thing that is helping them become adults while also providing work experience that they can use in their respective homes.
The scuba diving that Samoa Dive and Snorkel does encourages protection of the environment which is something Samoa really needs.
They encourage it to everyone that comes in and doesn’t use a boat, but instead does something known as shore diving by just swimming out to sites.
More dive shops on the island should consider this type of diving to protect our beautiful home.
The owner of the dive shop, Justin Kelly, told me, “We provide the platform and training to not only look after yourself, but recognise the signs and symptoms of others in distress and how to deal with others who have confidence or stress issues.
“This program teaches the student to look outward, delivers confidence and installs responsibility to the student, teaches the ability to watch, recognise and act on behalf of others in a safe, fun and rewarding environment.”
Justin Kelly – Owner of Samoa, Dive and Snorkel
All in all, the work Samoa Dive and Snorkel and Coral Reef Academy are doing is not only beneficial to for Samoa, but also for the youth of our future and is an inspiration to us all.