History of the Peace Corps in Samoa
In 1967, after experiencing a difficult year and a devastating cyclone, Samoa invited the Peace Corps. The first Volunteers worked in rural villages, leading health and hygiene projects for Samoa's Department of Health. These early Volunteers remain well-known for the introduction of water seal toilets, now affectionately called fale Pisikoa (Peace Corps houses).
The next groups to follow were civil engineers, architects, accountants, statisticians, and economic planners who served in various central government departments. One early Volunteer was the architect and construction supervisor for the present Parliament building at Mulinu’u and the supporting offices of the Legislative Assembly.
Volunteers also had a significant impact on infrastructure development, such as the Faleolo International Airport terminal and school buildings. Some took up prominent, executive positions in various government departments, such as acting directors of Public Works.
In health care, Volunteers have served as researchers in filariasis control (filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by a blood nematode), and they have worked at the National Hospital as nutrition educators and dietitians. Other Volunteers have worked as small business advisors and as youth development workers.
While Volunteers have served in most sectors and departments during the 40-year history of the Peace Corps in Samoa, the largest numbers have served in the Department of Education as classroom teachers and advisors. Peace Corps Volunteers have taught and been involved in educating tens of thousands of Samoan children. They have helped build the capacity of local teachers by serving in classrooms for two years, allowing Samoan teachers to attend the National University of Samoa full-time, enhancing their education and teaching skills. Volunteers have taught in a variety of subject areas, including science, business, mathematics, and computer studies. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and other Samoans are happy to share stories about their favorite Pisikoa who taught them in school or lived with their family. To date, more than 1,760 Volunteers have served in Samoa.
Future of Peace Corps Programming in Samoa
Having worked for several decades on building the capacity of educators in Samoa and wanting to focus on other project areas, the education project was graduated in December 2003.
In June 2001, in cooperation and partnership with the Government of Samoa, Peace Corps/Samoa began two new projects: village-based development (VBD) and capacity building (CB). The VBD project includes the Future Farmers of Samoa (FFS) program and an integrated coastal management (ICM) initiative, while the CB project includes information and communication technology (ICT), special needs education (SNE), and mentoring in technical and professional areas (MTPA). These projects remain the core of the Peace Corps’ development assistance to Samoa.
In the VBD project, Volunteers work with rural communities to help them articulate their common vision for the future and to assist them in identifying their assets, mobilizing local resources, and accessing additional services to help them achieve their vision. As part of these efforts, Volunteers often facilitate, with their village counterparts, the design and management of small-scale projects in numerous sectors, including health, agriculture, youth, and income generation. Volunteers with the Future Farmers of Samoa project are helping make agriculture a profession of first choice in Samoa. ICM Volunteers work with various local organizations and communities to incorporate marine education and awareness into science classes, develop environmental projects, and assist with the monitoring and protecting marine resources.
ICT Volunteers work primarily in schools and sometimes in offices as teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, network programmers, systems administrators, and systems analysts. SNE Volunteers build understanding and skills in the schools and communities of Samoa for students with special needs and in early childhood and inclusive education. MTPA Volunteers work with local development agencies and government ministries on strategic planning, capacity building, program design and management, and systemizing day-to-day operations.
In 2006, Peace Corps/Samoa updated its vision to the following:
A dynamic community service-focused post, working in partnership with Samoa to achieve its vision by identifying and initiating new, enhancing current, and graduating sustainable programs, through the support of well-trained, safety-oriented, adaptable Volunteers in meaningful assignments committed to building understanding and capacity.