|By Kevin Johnson on Tuesday, February 04, 2003 - 7:20 pm: Edit Post|
I remember reading Peter's article in the Honolulu Weekly when it came out a few years ago and immediately comparing my 2+ year stint to his experience. I remember casting off much of what he said as an aberration, but upon reflection and rereading his thoughts, I think there is more than a grain of truth to his words. Many material things about Apia and Samoa as a whole have changed since my time (Group 25, 1978-1980), but even when I was there the seeds for much of what Peter described were in evidence. In particular, I often got the feeling from some of the higher level Samoans in the Public Works Department where I worked, that we PC volunteers were simply free help. One of my first assignments was to go to Malietoa's residence in Vailima and install a pump and filtration system for his swimming pool. Although I acquiesced to this request, I refused subsequent ones like it, and over the years ended up developing several projects of somewhat clearer public good, mostly through my own initiative and with small grants from US AID that were available to us PCVs. Whether these grants are still available, I don't know, but they weren't enough to compete with the big money being thrown to Samoa by the large foreign aid programs of Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. At the same time, however, nearly all the Samoans I knew showed a sincere friendship with us PCVs, perhaps seeing us as more ingenuous in our desire to work with them than the expats who commonly lived in special compounds and commanded big salaries. Perhaps this feeling of acceptance by my Samoan friends and counterparts on a day-to-day level was what I was looking for and what satisfied me about my stay in Samoa, even though the essence of what Peter wrote in his article is undoubtedly true.
|By Jonathan Hail (97-81-204-176.dhcp.hckr.nc.charter.com - 188.8.131.52) on Saturday, August 11, 2007 - 12:17 pm: Edit Post|
The story exemplifies the steropersona of those who look to organizations like the peace corps to fulfill some dreamish fantasy of volunteering in developing worlds. Likely the author has retreated from similiar difficulties and challenges in his life both professional and personal. The opporutnity to affect the system has been absolutely overlooked.