Our Volunteers: Carol Fisher volunteering in Samoa

St Joan of Arc Primary School, Samoa

The secondary school next door at Leulumoega

St Joan of Arc Primary School at Leulumoega provides education up to grade 6 for hundreds of Samoan children.

MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education agreed that by 2015 across the world we could ensure every child, male and female, was able to complete their primary schooling. While Samoan enrolment levels are quite high, the education system faces two major issues in its attempt to provide quality education for all.

Firstly, teachers are regularly leaving the education sector for other work. This means experienced teachers are in short supply and pride in the work remains low. Secondly, drop-out rates further up the education chain are quite high.

Sr Akenese Nun Toon, principal of St Joan of Arc Primary School, placed a request with Palms Australia for an English teacher to work at the school, providing mentoring and training for young teachers.

Carol Fisher

Carol FisherCarol Fisher, from Townsville, has volunteered to work at St Joan of Arc Primary School for two years.

Carol is an experienced teacher, with significant expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, English as a Second Language education, library management and supporting different learning needs. Carol has previously taught in Townsville, Palm Island and Santa Teresa Aboriginal Mission and has worked in various other capacities relating to Indigenous education for 30 years.

While the Samoan context is quite different, Sr Akenese and Palms Australia are confident that Carol will bring many useful skills to the school. She will contribute to Samoa achieving Universal Primary Education by assisting local teachers reach their potential.”

Carol Fisher’s CommUNITY News no. 1

April 21, 2011

Carol Fisher with the choir
Talofa from sunny Samoa as the cyclone season slowly ends. I am a volunteer teacher at St Joan of Arc primary school, Leulumoega on the island of Upolo Samoa.  The village is close to the airport and home of the grand Basilica of Santa Ana.  The Sisters of Mercy administer two schools here – St Joan of Arc for children from pre-school through to year 6 and Paul VI College for students from year 7 to year 13.

I began as English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher to years 5 and 6 and helped to set up a library as well as taking on the role of teacher librarian.  This year I have been able to assist years 3 and 4 teachers with program planning in their English lessons and monitoring these lessons.  I am looking forward to teaching year 5 on a temporary basis, when their teacher has time off to have her first baby.  The children have a remarkable understanding of English and my main areas of teaching, particularly with years 5 + 6 are grammar and extension of vocabulary.  This reminds me very much of teaching ESL to Aboriginal students and we’ve had some laughs along the way, particularly at my mispronunciation of Samoan language.

Upolu was where the renowned author Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last 4 years of his life.  When he died, his wish was to be buried on Mt Vaea, not far from the capital, Apia. I brough a copy of “Treasure Island” with me and read it to years 5 and 6 as part of their English lessons. We planned a field trip to the RLS museum, his former home, Vailima.  It was a first for almost all of the children. They researched and collated and presented RLS’s life and death in Samoa with stories and pictures and song.  A year 5 student, Sione, who has the voice of an angel, sang the words on RLS’s grave in Samoan and English.  This presentation was performed to all classes and parents.

Certainly a highlight of my teaching life to see and listen to them enact their knowledge and talent with such confidence.  I’ve joined the church choir because I love singing and many people tell me that music is the best way to learn the language.  Sounds ok, but I struggle with the comprehension of some songs.  Anotehr highlight for me was to hear the Basilica’s combined villages choir sing “O Holy Night” in Samoan and English at the Christmas mass.  The principal, Sister Paul, and the teaching and ancillary staff are very supportive and great people to work with.

Food for thought

  • How has Carol demonstrated her desire to understand and participate in Samoan culture?
  • Does this willingness affect her ability to successfully teach English as a Second Language in this different culture?

Orientation Course

March 11, 2010

“Great course, Variety of activities that pushed us out of comfort zone- a real authentic course- not just theoretical knowledge…. it was great to have people participating from a variety of backgrounds- it enriched the whole group.”

Click here to read the full article

25 more prepare to volunteer overseas

January 8, 2010

25 Australians will prepare over the coming 9 days for cross-cultural work as part of Palms Australia’s 90th Orientation Course in Mittagong NSW.

Click here to read the full article

Donate Online

Donating online offers you a completely secure and easy way to support our work.

Carol Fisher's placement has completed, but you can still help us provide volunteers to many other communities by using the form below.

Make a recurring donation

Amount: $
Tax Deductible?

Make a one-off donation

Amount: $
Tax Deductible?

About your donation

Recurring donations will be deducted on a regular basis, until Palms Australia or Paypal is notified to stop. Upon clicking "Donate", you will be forwarded to an external site, hosted by Paypal, to securely transmit your credit card or paypal account details. Please check the form on the next page to confirm the transaction details are correct. In this instance, Palms Australia does not handle your credit card details but will receive notification of your contact details.

As Carol Fisher's volunteer placement has ended, your donation will be placed towards the costs of sending and supporting other Palms volunteers to exchange skills with our partner communities. For more information contact Palms Australia.

Donate by Post/Fax

You can download and print a donation form and return it to us by post/fax with your cheque, money order or credit card details.

Donate by Phone

Or call us on (02) 9560 5333 to make a donation by phone. THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR WORK!


Population: 192,749

Area: 2,831 sq. km.

Median Age: 20.8

Literacy: 99.7 %

Languages: Samoan, English

Located about half way between Hawai’i and New Zealand lies the island nation of Samoa. Formerly known as Western Samoa, it consists of two large islands, Savai’i and Upolo, and several small islets. The Samoan people are predominantly Polynesian and comprise the second largest Polynesian population in the world, after the New Zealand Ma’ori. Agriculture […]

More on Samoa

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. - Indira Gandhi