I have been trying to work with WorldTeach since I first discovered the organization almost two years ago. Having studied anthropology for years, I am highly critical of large-scale international non-profits, as they can often do more harm in host countries than good. It was crucial for me to find an organization that did not seek to Westernize its beneficiaries, but empower them to develop along an organic and independent path. WorldTeach only sends volunteers to countries that specifically request assistance in attracting native English speakers and highly-qualified teachers"”it does not operate in countries where it is not invited. WorldTeach also places emphasis on working within the extant educational system in-country rather than trying to overhaul it to meet Western expectations. Though this can often mean difficulties for the volunteers, it is a principle I am more than happy to uphold. As a non-sectarian non-profit, WorldTeach does not align itself with any religion"”nor does it permit proselytization of any sort. Its commitment is strictly to education and intercultural relationships. You can read more about this organization at the WorldTeach website.
The Department of Education in American Samoa has requested qualified English teachers for secondary-level schools in the country. As part of a new dual-language approach, all courses are to incorporate the Samoan language with the exception of English"”hence the need for native speakers to teach these classes. The country suffers from a lack of qualified educators, as well as an overall sense of discouragement amongst the student body. Those who complete their schooling find it difficult to make headway economically, which further compounds the disheartened attitude prevalent among students and educators alike. Beyond actual instruction, WorldTeach volunteers are expected to serve as cultural resources for students and colleagues, becoming actively involved in their host communities and helping American Samoans develop a better understanding of the world beyond the South Pacific. Volunteers organize field trips, social and sport clubs, and community development projects, as well as offer additional tutoring for tests such as the SAT or ASVAB. Commitment to the program extends well beyond the classroom door.
Though I am very excited about relocating to American Samoa and the work I'll be doing, the experience will be challenging on every front. WorldTeach is excellent about preparing its volunteers for the radical changes that are part and parcel of living in a developing country, and provides extensive documentation on what participants can expect overseas. In American Samoa, life can be unpredictable at best and deadly at worst. Transportation on and between the islands is irregular and often unreliable, meaning you might go a month without being able purchase supplies for either the classroom or home. Medical access is fairly limited"”especially on the smaller islands, where most medications are difficult to get and rarely on hand. (Volunteers on the outlying islands are encouraged to bring a well-stocked first aid kit, as they may need to treat minor injuries and afflictions for their students.) Due to the constantly humid climate, mold and skin disease are a constant problem. Gender roles are considered fairly rigid, and female volunteers are forewarned to expect harassment in some form as American women are highly sexualized. Religion is key to the community, and it is difficult to integrate thoroughly without participation in some sort of church activities. Curfew is routinely enforced, with Sundays completely devoted to religious observation.
Also, there are 8-inch centipedes crawling around.
It may seem like a highly illogical choice to move to such a remote area"”especially when you consider that as a volunteer, I will only receive a stipend of approximately $400/month to cover basic living expenses. You cannot profit financially from working with WorldTeach"”it simply isn't possible. But volunteers benefit in many other ways, such as professional development: each volunteer is required to attend multiple in-service events during the year, as well as submit monthly lesson plans and complete monthly professional development modules. Volunteers are observed by field staff in class, and their teaching methods are reviewed and critiqued to ensure WorldTeach continues to offer highly qualified professionals. Make no mistake"”this isn't an easy tropical escape from responsibility! This is a commitment to hard work without the promise of immediate or tangible results, all while isolated from your friends, family, and the comforts of home.
Participation in the American Samoa program is subsidized by the country's Department of Education as part of an initiative to entice qualified teachers. This means that certain costs, such as the international flight and visa fees, will be paid for by the DoE, who is also responsible for paying the monthly stipend allotted to volunteers. While generous, the subsidy does not cover everything necessary for participation. I myself pay a $2,000.00 deposit up front, which can be returned to me after completion of the program. In addition, I must cover any and all expenses associated with entry into the program. There is also the fact that as I am paid by the DoE (NOT WorldTeach), if government funding goes awry I may be without a stipend for months at a time.
While I am saving every last bit I can manage after paying my deposit, these costs add up rather quickly! So I am seeking to raise extra funds before I leave the country in mid-July, this page being one of several avenues. Your donation will help cover expenses such as:
"¢ Passport renewal fees
"¢ PRAXIS 1 PPST exam
o The PRAXIS 1 exam is required by the American Samoa Department of Education and is necessary to ensure only competent and qualified educators are brought in to the country.
"¢ Physical exam and vaccinations
"¢ Visa documentation fees
o Only the actual visa is covered by the DoE subsidy, not the fees associated with getting your documentation in order.
"¢ Flight from Memphis to departure city
o Only the international flight is covered by the DoE subsidy.
"¢ Medications, a full first aid kit, and emergency survival kit
"¢ Conservative/modest clothing
o American Samoa still has fairly strict gender roles, and women are not permitted to bare their shoulders or wear skirts above the knee.
"¢ Basic classroom supplies
If donations exceed the amount needed to cover these items, I will reserve the surplus to put towards an in-country service project. Volunteers are encouraged to involve students and community members in development project such as building a computer lab, or organizing a recycling program. Extra funds may be applied to these projects once they are approved by WorldTeach staff.
I know this has been a TON of information to process, and I appreciate your time! I hope I have been able to provide you some insight into why I desperately want to work with THIS program in THIS country. I am happy to answer any and all questions you may have, whether about financial details or program obligations or how you can join WorldTeach yourself! Please feel free to contact me through this website if you like. Even if you can't donate at this time, sharing this page as much as possible is a huge help. Thank you again!
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