Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to volunteer overseas. I decided this was the year and after much deliberation I chose to go to Samoa for six weeks. I couldn’t have picked a better destination! Samoa was honestly one of the best experiences of my life, and something I will be able to cherish forever. The stunning landscapes, the culture, the people, the relaxing atmosphere – everything about it was simply amazing!
I arrived late at night at Faleolo airport in Apia on the 7th of June 2015. The immensity of the situation hit me as I exited the plane, as well as the stark heat – which I loved! On entry into the baggage claim, I was intrigued by the Samoan band that was playing traditional music in the background. As an Aussie girl, I love music, dancing, the beach and the sun – so I knew in just those first five minutes that I was going to love it. I was transported to my host family by a Projects Abroad guide. It took an hour to get to my accommodation and she was so kind, chatting to me about what we were driving past. Unfortunately it was 11pm at night so I couldn’t see much – but that really didn’t bother me. I was just in awe!
On arrival to my host family I met my host mum, my first roommate who was also from Australia, as well as two other volunteer housemates from the USA and France. Due to it being so late, I just introduced myself, unpacked a little and went to bed, chatting to my new roommate as I went. It wasn’t until the next few days that it all really began.
In my first week in Samoa, I’d had my Projects Abroad induction, and was introduced to all of the other volunteers and staff. I also went out to restaurants, slid down the Pappasea sliding rocks, tried my first Samoan beer, went market shopping, experienced my first volunteer ‘social’ to Palolo deep marine reserve, drank a coconut, and worked my first four days at my placement – Vaimoso primary school. I also met the rest of my Samoan family – there were a lot of them – and I went on an overnight adventure with a group of volunteers to Savaii, the second island of Samoa.
Travelling on the Weekends
Most weekends I would go travelling with a group of volunteers. It was so easy to make friends with so many like-minded, amazing people, and I can honestly say that I now have friends as far away as Luxemburg and Belgium – something I wouldn’t have ever imagined a few months ago.
During my time in Samoa, I went to Savaii, lalomanou, Faofao Fales and even on a solo adventure to Manono Island. I also spent some weekends at home in Apia. During our weekends away we got to meet lots of other tourists and locals. We experienced FiaFia dance and fire shows, we wove baskets, swam, and snorkelled with some amazing wildlife.
Socialising with fellow volunteers was great fun. The inaugural rugby match against Manu Samoa and the New Zealand All blacks sent Samoa into a spin! I didn’t know much about rugby when I arrived in the country, but I have a new found appreciation for it now. This was the first time in history that the All Blacks had come to Samoa, and the country was thriving with tourists and excitement. There were parades and even a half-day holiday. The whole country was cheering on the teams.
Placement at Vaimoso Primary School
I also had such a fantastic time at my placement school. I was positioned at Vaimoso primary school, a government school not far from town. I walked to and from my school daily, greeting and meeting locals on my way. The Samoan people are extremely friendly and always up for a chat. At my school I ran an English programme for groups of year 4 and 5 students in the mornings. These children struggled with English literacy skills, and I really enjoyed helping them. I think I gained as much out of it as they did. After lunch I taught classes from years 6-8 and helped out in other aspects of the school.
The staff at Vaimoso primary were so friendly and helpful, and they constantly fed me. As well as teaching and assisting classes, I judged the Vaimoso Literacy Day competition, supervised Year 1 and Year 2 exams and helped children with performances and essays for the Interschool District Literacy Competition – my students gained first and second prize, making me feel proud! I helped instruct Zumba dance classes, ran a holiday school programme for the year 7 and 8 students with a fellow volunteer, and even spoke in front of all the district’s teachers and the Ministry of Education during a professional development seminar.
I met so many amazing people during my time in Samoa. I tried lots of different Samoan dishes whilst I was there, from breadfruit to palusami, but my favourite was coconut jam on pancake balls.
It was the adventure of a lifetime and I can’t wait to one day go back and see my Samoan family all grown up! Samoa is such an incredible place, and the culture and family values are so strong that the country has a bond that I’ve never seen before. Fa’afetai Samoa – you were amazing!