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Peace Corps looking to bring volunteers back to Samoa

The Peace Corps Country Director, Gini Wilderson, returned from the United States of America last month and has confirmed the organisation is preparing to bring volunteers back to Samoa.

Ms. Wilderson had to leave Samoa in March alongside other volunteers who were evacuated due to the global pandemic.

The newest arrivals, a group of 29 volunteers, longer-term volunteers, one Peace Corps Response volunteer and some Peace Corps staff were evacuated, while other staff remained on island.

Majority of the volunteers were teachers at Government schools, working under the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture to improve English literacy skills at the primary school level. 

“Those evacuations represented the temporary suspension of Volunteer activities with the goal of returning to normal operations when feasible,” Ms. Wilderson said in an email.

“Peace Corps does anticipate bringing back volunteers in the future when conditions permit.

“When volunteers return, they will resume their role of fulfilling M.E.S.C.’s critical mission to increase primary students’ English literacy abilities.”

Peace Corps, known locally as pisikoa, have been in Samoa from 1967 and more than 2000 volunteers have come and gone since.

There have been fears that primary schools will be short of teachers in the absence of regular volunteers as the pandemic rages on.

“In preparation for Peace Corps Volunteers’ eventual return, the Peace Corps has developed and is implementing a comprehensive process for evaluating each post based on medical, security, programmatic, administrative, and logistical criteria that will allow the agency to determine when conditions are conducive to welcome Volunteers back to service,” Ms. Wilderson said.

“We [Peace Corps and Samoa] are monitoring the situation closely and collaborating with the Embassy, MESC, and Peace Corps/Headquarters to evaluate the situation in country.”

Volunteer Services Abroad (V.S.A.); the Australian Volunteers for International Development (A.V.I.D.); Projects Abroad, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (J.I.C.A.) also withdrew their volunteers in the early months of the pandemic amid mass global border closures and uncertainty about the pandemic.

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