VSA’s association with Samoa dates back to 1963 when our very first volunteer took up an assignment in Apia. Till recently, these assignments were primarily focused on education. In 2012, we began sending volunteers who are working in agriculture, livelihoods, community infrastructure and disaster preparedness. Our Samoa programme is managed from our Wellington office.

Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, is situated in the South Pacific approximately halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. It sits squarely in the cyclone belt and is highly vulnerable to devastating storms. Around three-quarters of its 195,000 population live on the main island of Upolu; the rest live on the neighbouring island of Savai'i or one of the seven small islets.

The traditional Samoan way, the fa’a Samoa, remains a strong force in Samoan life and politics where family is all-important and elders are highly respected. Each village is made up of extended families that are represented on the village council by a chief (matai). The more western-style parliamentary system in Samoa is highly influenced by traditional social systems and the family, civic and political duties performed by the matai at village level. The country is predominantly Christian.

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Former volunteer Thoraya Abdul-Rassol with Samoa Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa (left)

 

What we are doing in Samoa

In the 2018-19 year, VSA volunteers undertook 17 assignments with 10 partner organisations in Samoa.

VSA placed six volunteers with the Pacific Games. These volunteers were
recruited and deployed in a very short space of time, but provided the
organisers of the Pacific Games with skills in areas of the games where
they were needed most. These included Graphic Designers, a Volunteer
Coordinator, a Transport Coordinator and a Social Media Specialist.

Pati Gagau’s comments from the High Commission in Samoa stated, “VSA
was able to respond positively, and very quickly to Samoa’s request for
technical support and help in their preparations for the Pacific Games. The
request came to us and we directed this to VSA (although they were also
approached directly), and they came to the party. And we have had nothing
but high praise for the VSA volunteers that have helped Samoa deliver on the Pacific Games.”