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VSA in Samoa

Flag of Samoa

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.


Living and Working in Samoa


Language and culture

VSA has a mix of short and longer term assignments in Samoa. While English is widely spoken, gaining knowledge of the local language is important. We provide basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Understanding local customs (fa’asamoa) is vital to a successful assignment. Samoa is a deeply religious country. Most meetings, even in a professional setting, will have an element of religion to them depending on who is leading the organisation. The matai system, or Samoan chiefly system that governs the aiga potopoto (extended family) is an important part of Samoan culture. Most Samoans live communally with fanua (land) as an integral part of the extended family. Samoans are generally very generous as the people hold reciprocity highly as it confirms that they will never ‘lack’ anything.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. Volunteers will have access to telephones, internet, restaurants, public transport system and 24-hour power although power outages are a regular occurrence. Volunteer housing will likely have gas facilities for cooking. Samoa has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. Mains water supply may be fine for drinking but volunteers will often boil water, use a purifier or drink bottled water to be safer from contaminants.

Dress standards

Samoa has a big expatriate community and most are used to seeing western ways of dressing, with many locals dressing very similarly. However, it is important to remember that you are a volunteer with a different motivation for living and working in Samoa than most expatriates. We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively. Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless is acceptable.

The traditional clothing for Samoan women is the puletasi (matching top and ankle length lavalava). Volunteers can purchase these outfits from the markets or most clothing or fabric shops in town. The puletasi can also be made very cheaply by local tailors. It is advisable not to expose skin above the knee, especially when attending traditional events. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Traditional wear for men is the ie faitaga or ie sulu (a wrap-around lavalava) and island shirt. The ie faitaga and island shirts can be purchased at the market or most shops in town or made to measure at clothing shops in town.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net if you are staying in villages. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are public hospitals in both Upolu and Savaii complete with a qualified dentist. Although you should have adequate health care in-country you will need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered prior to your departure. In general, there are no problems moving around. Land ownership is complex in Samoa and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission.  Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night. 

Banking and finances

Banks are found in Apia - Westpac, ANZ, and the Bank of the South Pacific. You can open a local bank account once you arrive in Samoa where monthly living allowances are paid into. You will find ATMs in town with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards. Local currency is the tala. Visit oanda.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Samoa has two cellular providers, Blue Sky and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations.

Internet connections are widely available at reasonable speeds. Internet cafes are available in town with wireless ‘hotspots’ around businesses and hospitality complexes.

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In-country partner profile

Farmers Samoa Incorporated

View Profile


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Meet Ryan Brown

An interview with Ryan Brown, Programme Manager (Polynesia)

Ryan is our Programme Manager for Polynesia.

Read more

Quick facts


  • Samoa was governed by New Zealand until its people voted for independence in 1961.

  • It is made up of nine volcanic islands, two of which (Savai'i and Upolu) make up more than 99% of the land. Savai'I Island is an active volcano; it last erupted in 1911.

  • Samoa’s main exports are coconut oil and cream, copra, fish and beer.

  • Samoa is a deeply conservative and devoutly Christian society. The church is a focus of recreational and social life. Many Samoan villages hold up to 20 minutes of prayer curfews in the evenings.

  • The currency is the tala (dollar), which is divided into 100 sene (cents).

  • Samoa is vulnerable to natural hazards, suffering the effects of tsunamis and cyclones.

  • Samoa was the last country in the world to see the sun set. On December 29, 2011 Samoa jumped the International Dateline and became the first country in the world to see the sun rise.

  • Samoa has a Human Development Index rating of 106 (2014 UN Human Development Report).
Source: CIA Factbook , BBC country profile , Lonely Planet , UN Development Programme International human development indicators

See how this compares to NZ standards

NZ Quick Facts


  • New Zealand’s wildlife is dominated by an estimated 245 bird species. New Zealand has more flightless bird species than any other place on earth and no native land mammals except for bats.

  • Auckland is the biggest city. The other main centres are Hamilton, Wellington (the capital), Christchurch and Dunedin.

  • New Zealand has a Human Development Index rating of 6.

  • Polynesian settlers arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand around the 10th century. The first Europeans to visit the country were Dutch explorers led by Abel Tasman in 1642.

  • The Māori name for the country is Aotearoa: “land of the long white cloud.” The English name New Zealand comes from the Dutch Nieuw Zeeland, a region in the Netherlands.

  • In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi established British law and government, and was followed by warfare in the 1840s and 1860s as Māori sought to defend their lands and local authority. The country became a dominion of Britain in 1907 and became independent in

  • The official languages are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language.

  • New Zealand has more than 50 volcanoes, some of which are still active.

  • New Zealand has about 0.1% of the world’s population, but produces about 0.3% of the world’s material output.

Contact

If you are interested in becoming an in-country partner organisation with VSA in Samoa, contact us at the address below. Alternatively, email us by clicking the 'Contact us' button right at the bottom of this page.

VSA, PO Box 12 246, Wellington 6144, NEW ZEALAND



Ken Wong

VSA volunteer profiles

Ken Wong – Scientific Research Adviser

Ken Wong works as a Scientific Research Adviser with the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa. He completes his assignment in August 2014.
View Profile


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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.

SAMOA page pic 1 SAMOA page pic 2

What we’re doing in Samoa

 

We send volunteers to Samoa on short and longer term assignments focusing on promoting economic development and building local capacity in the agricultural, small business and tourism sectors.

Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force with exports that include coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. Subsistence agriculture supports around 75 per cent of the population. The economy is also dependent on development aid, overseas family remittances, fishing, and an expanding tourism sector that accounted for 25 per cent of GDP in 2007. By supporting small and medium businesses and increasing the quality of agricultural education, our volunteers are helping to improve agricultural practices and production, and increase job and business opportunities.

Much of Samoa’s economy operates informally, with only 18 per cent of the population formally employed in a salaried position. Many Samoans live a subsistence lifestyle and sell surplus produce at local markets. We focus on strengthening rural livelihoods and infrastructure to support agricultural development and economic growth.

Read blog posts from Doris and Achim Brinkmann, who both volunteered with Farmers Samoa Incorporated.

 

Latest on Samoa

VSA part of Major Groups and other Stakeholders Forum in Apia

VSA part of Major Groups and other Stakeholders Forum in Apia

Last night was the official opening of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders Forum (MGoS), one of the Small Island... Read More


Mingling with the kiwi volunteers in Samoa – I see stories!
New volunteers heading out on assignment - August 2014
Breadfruit on the menu at SIDS

Living and Working in Samoa


Language and culture

VSA has a mix of short and longer term assignments in Samoa. While English is widely spoken, gaining knowledge of the local language is important. We provide basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Understanding local customs (fa’asamoa) is vital to a successful assignment. Samoa is a deeply religious country. Most meetings, even in a professional setting, will have an element of religion to them depending on who is leading the organisation. The matai system, or Samoan chiefly system that governs the aiga potopoto (extended family) is an important part of Samoan culture. Most Samoans live communally with fanua (land) as an integral part of the extended family. Samoans are generally very generous as the people hold reciprocity highly as it confirms that they will never ‘lack’ anything.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. Volunteers will have access to telephones, internet, restaurants, public transport system and 24-hour power although power outages are a regular occurrence. Volunteer housing will likely have gas facilities for cooking. Samoa has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. Mains water supply may be fine for drinking but volunteers will often boil water, use a purifier or drink bottled water to be safer from contaminants.

Dress standards

Samoa has a big expatriate community and most are used to seeing western ways of dressing, with many locals dressing very similarly. However, it is important to remember that you are a volunteer with a different motivation for living and working in Samoa than most expatriates. We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively. Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless is acceptable.

The traditional clothing for Samoan women is the puletasi (matching top and ankle length lavalava). Volunteers can purchase these outfits from the markets or most clothing or fabric shops in town. The puletasi can also be made very cheaply by local tailors. It is advisable not to expose skin above the knee, especially when attending traditional events. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Traditional wear for men is the ie faitaga or ie sulu (a wrap-around lavalava) and island shirt. The ie faitaga and island shirts can be purchased at the market or most shops in town or made to measure at clothing shops in town.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net if you are staying in villages. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are public hospitals in both Upolu and Savaii complete with a qualified dentist. Although you should have adequate health care in-country you will need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered prior to your departure. In general, there are no problems moving around. Land ownership is complex in Samoa and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission.  Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night. 

Banking and finances

Banks are found in Apia - Westpac, ANZ, and the Bank of the South Pacific. You can open a local bank account once you arrive in Samoa where monthly living allowances are paid into. You will find ATMs in town with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards. Local currency is the tala. Visit oanda.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Samoa has two cellular providers, Blue Sky and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations.

Internet connections are widely available at reasonable speeds. Internet cafes are available in town with wireless ‘hotspots’ around businesses and hospitality complexes.

Living and Working in Samoa
Language and culture

VSA has a mix of short and longer term assignments in Samoa. While English is widely spoken, gaining knowledge of the local language is important. We provide basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Understanding local customs (fa’asamoa) is vital to a successful assignment. Samoa is a deeply religious country. Most meetings, even in a professional setting, will have an element of religion to them depending on who is leading the organisation. The matai system, or Samoan chiefly system that governs the aiga potopoto (extended family) is an important part of Samoan culture. Most Samoans live communally with fanua (land) as an integral part of the extended family. Samoans are generally very generous as the people hold reciprocity highly as it confirms that they will never ‘lack’ anything.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. Volunteers will have access to telephones, internet, restaurants, public transport system and 24-hour power although power outages are a regular occurrence. Volunteer housing will likely have gas facilities for cooking. Samoa has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. Mains water supply may be fine for drinking but volunteers will often boil water, use a purifier or drink bottled water to be safer from contaminants.

Dress standards

Samoa has a big expatriate community and most are used to seeing western ways of dressing, with many locals dressing very similarly. However, it is important to remember that you are a volunteer with a different motivation for living and working in Samoa than most expatriates. We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively. Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless is acceptable.

The traditional clothing for Samoan women is the puletasi (matching top and ankle length lavalava). Volunteers can purchase these outfits from the markets or most clothing or fabric shops in town. The puletasi can also be made very cheaply by local tailors. It is advisable not to expose skin above the knee, especially when attending traditional events. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Traditional wear for men is the ie faitaga or ie sulu (a wrap-around lavalava) and island shirt. The ie faitaga and island shirts can be purchased at the market or most shops in town or made to measure at clothing shops in town.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net if you are staying in villages. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are public hospitals in both Upolu and Savaii complete with a qualified dentist. Although you should have adequate health care in-country you will need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered prior to your departure. In general, there are no problems moving around. Land ownership is complex in Samoa and strangers cannot wander freely through private or empty land without first seeking permission.  Take care when walking alone and avoid this at night. 

Banking and finances

Banks are found in Apia - Westpac, ANZ, and the Bank of the South Pacific. You can open a local bank account once you arrive in Samoa where monthly living allowances are paid into. You will find ATMs in town with an increasing number of shops also having EFTPOS machines. Some hotels/guest houses accept foreign credit cards. Local currency is the tala. Visit oanda.com for current exchange rates.

Cell phones and email

Samoa has two cellular providers, Blue Sky and Digicel. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations.

Internet connections are widely available at reasonable speeds. Internet cafes are available in town with wireless ‘hotspots’ around businesses and hospitality complexes.