Judging by their comments, Samoa has captured the hearts and minds of a group of Epsom Girls Grammar School students who are on island during their holiday break. The 24 Year 12 and 13 students, all of whom have a career interest in the health sector, are accompanied by five staff members from one of the leading state secondary schools in Auckland.
“All of the girls take Senior Biology and many of them wish to be doctors, nurses, scientists,” said spokesperson, Rachel Heeney. “The main purpose of the trip was to provide a medical experience; to learn about the health and medical issues of the people.
We have had an amazing talk from Toleafoa Dr. Viali Lameko at the med school all about the health care in Samoa. He is a very passionate, dedicated doctor who is at the cutting edge of medicine and health.”
It is already evident from their comments that the students are embracing the opportunity they have been given and have already learned much more than just facts and statistics.
“I have learned there is more to life than materialistic ambitions, I have been humbled by the existence of people who dedicate their lives to help others. I hope that when I am a doctor, I am like these people,” said Sanskrita Dsarma.
For Georgie Hood, the trip has confirmed her future plans. “I have always had a passion for helping others and pursuing a medical career. I really want to be a nurse and this has confirmed this desire.
"I am so pleased to be in Samoa, my experience with people from Samoa in my job as a surf lifesaver in N.Z. has made me want to visit this beautiful island. I plan to come and do some nursing here one day.
"Dr Viali Lameko is inspirational and I am so pleased to have come here. I am so excited for my future and the rest of this trip.”
With her sights set on a career in the army, Victoria Lu has hopes of returning to Samoa as a volunteer after gaining her qualifications as a medic. “I thought this would be a very rewarding experience, one that we don’t get in N.Z. I want to join the army as a medic, this is like a paramedic.
"I love the focus of the people in Samoa and I loved the old people’s home today how lovely and caring the Sisters are – it was a real home, so comfortable. I would love Samoa to have more opportunities for the modern technology that we have in N.Z. I hope that when I am a medic I get to volunteer here in Samoa. If not, I will definitely come here on a break to do some volunteering in the community."
On Monday, the group had a lecture and tour of the hospital, after which they visited Mapuifagalele Home for the Aged.
“The students loved it and felt very humbled,” said Rachel. Yesterday it was ward rounds at the hospital then a visit to Robert Louis Stevenson Secondary School to mingle with the students.
Today, the group will visit the Cancer Society and on Thursday there will be a visit to the Cultural Centre in town followed by a visit to the Robert Louis Stevenson museum at Vailima.
Before departing on Friday evening the group will go across the island to Poutasi Community Hospital.
Rachel, who did a teaching placement here 21 years ago, will be leading another group to Samoa later in the year.
Her hopes are that the girls will use this knowledge to develop themselves as future community leaders and medical personnel.
“For the teachers we get to see Samoa, a good number of our girls come to Epsom Girls, many staying in our school hostel.
"We hope that this experience will be an eye opener and will enable them to make good decisions about medicine and health in the future. They have been offered many opportunities to see medicine from a number of angles.”