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 then Samoa Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa (left)

 

What we are doing in Samoa

VSA’s focus in Samoa is on tourism, agriculture and fisheries, environmental sustainability, community/youth engagement, empowering the most vulnerable, and health and education. 

In 2019, VSA’s work in Samoa included placing volunteers at the Pacific Games. These volunteers supported the organisers of the games with to develop skills in areas where they were needed most including; graphic design, volunteer management, transport logistic management and social media.  

Working remotely from New Zealand, VSA e-volunteers are providing support across a range of assignments in sectors such as primary production, business support and systems, and policy advice.