American Actor building classrooms in Samoa

By Sapeer Mayron 04 June 2019, 9:00PM

He sang "we’re all in this together" on the silver screen, and in Samoa this week, he is practicing it in real life.

High School Musical actor, Bart Johnson, or Coach Jack Bolton, is building classrooms for Samoan children.

Mr. Johnson is accompanying his son, Baylen Johnson, and a group of humanitarian volunteers who are in the country for two weeks to start building classrooms at Vaimea Primary School.

He said he came to Samoa not quite knowing what work the group would be doing, but confident he would be working hard and for the betterment of the people.

“They tell you get ready to work, and get ready to sweat, and they say it’s going to be the hardest two weeks of your life but let’s go,” Mr. Johnson said.

The organisation is Humanitarian Experience for Youth (H.E.F.Y). It is an organisation for 16 to 19-year-old members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which takes them overseas to help people.

“I heard about this incredible programme and I wanted my son to get this experience,” Mr. Johnson said.

“On this trip you play a bit, you see some things, but the majority of the trip you are working really hard. It’s not glamorous, it’s in the sunlight, it’s hot and sweaty and we work every day.”

The former High School Musical star said he started his career building movie sets, and so he has poured concrete and built walls before. But not for nearly 25 years, he added, and certainly not under the Samoan sun.

“This is my first time ever doing quite this. I have been involved in boy scouts and youth groups with my church, but I have never done a humanitarian job like this,” added Mr Johnson. 

He said the group of teenagers are incredibly thoughtful and selfless, and he has enjoyed talking with them before and after working hours about their lessons and experiences on the island.

They have been meeting the Samoan culture every evening with dance classes and beautiful meals, and learning about the Samoan way of life.

“You wouldn’t believe the stuff that comes out of the mouths of these teenagers, who are stopping and thinking about this amazing experience, and these people who were so kind to us,” said Mr Johnson

“It’s been a beautiful, enriching, surprising experience which is mostly due to the Samoan, local community here being so inviting, and a group of kids that really appreciate that kindness.”

Sixteen-year-old Baylen Johnson thinks Samoa is the most beautiful place in the world, and hopes to return one day.

“It’s been really cool to get to meet new people, and working in the school too – I play a little bit of football with the kids and run around with them, it’s so great. 

“I don’t think I will ever get an experience like this again, this is incredible,” he said.

“I had no idea of what life in Samoa is like, so coming down here, feeling this hot weather and humidity and seeing everyone so happy, it’s like wow. There is a lot to learn from these people.”

He said when he goes back to California he will tell his friends to Google Samoa, then multiply how beautiful the photos are by 10.

“That is Samoa,” he said. 

“It may be a little dot on the map but it’s the most beautiful place in the world.”


By Sapeer Mayron 04 June 2019, 9:00PM

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