Samoa to welcome biggest Peace Corps Group

An ava ceremony will be held at the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) fale today to welcome the 90th contingent of Peace Corps volunteers who arrived yesterday.

According to Peace Corps Country Director Gini Wilderson, the group of 27 is the largest so far.

The past two years have seen 16 or 17 volunteers arrive, but thanks to the programmes positive reputation across America, that number has increased, she said.

“Just anecdotally, our placement office tells us five times as many people apply as are accepted; we have to turn people away.”

The volunteers, who arrive first as trainees from across the United States, range from the age of 23-40 years and will stay for two years.  

Their first nine weeks in Samoa will be dedicated to learning Samoan, having cross-cultural training and learning the English literacy programme. They are here to teach across 27 schools in Upolu, Savaii and Manono.

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The volunteers work with small groups of students struggling to keep up with the class and provide specialised instruction for them, as well as help improve libraries in the schools they work.

Libraries might need better organisation systems, or to be made more inviting for students.

“Some volunteers set up schedules for students to come and utilise the library, to encourage a love of reading, which helps to improve literacy rates,” said Ms. Wilderson.

Ms. Wilderson said the Peace Corps focus on English literacy in primary schools for the past few years has shown real impact.

The programming team met M.E.S.C. recently and were shown literacy trends across the country.

“What they observed was that in areas where Peace Corps volunteers were, they were seeing signs of improvement,” she said.

That impact is felt immediately by the volunteers, so much so that many don’t want to leave after their two-year service is up.

“Of the group preparing to leave, six have extended their stay for another year and taken on new assignments with M.E.S.C,” said Ms. Wilderson.

She said as literacy continues to improve, there may come a time when the Government asks the Peace Corps to undertake a new focus to help Samoa meet a different but pressing need. 

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