Skip to main content
US Flag An official website of the United States government

Connect with the Peace Corps

If you're ready for something bigger, we have a place where you belong.

Follow us

Apply to the Peace Corps

The application process begins by selecting a service model and finding an open position.

Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
Log in/check status
Peace Corps Response
Up to 12 months
Log in/check status
Virtual Service Pilot
3-6 months
Log in/check status

Let us help you find the right position.

If you are flexible in where you serve for the two-year Peace Corps Volunteer program, our experts can match you with a position and country based on your experience and preferences.

Serve where you’re needed most

Navigating Identities in Samoa

Peace Corps’ Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ICDEIA) approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

To the extent possible, Peace Corps staff will work with Volunteers with disabilities to support them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

  • As a Volunteer with disabilities in Samoa, you may face new challenges. In Samoa, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with visible physical disabilities and may discriminate against them.
  • There is very little infrastructure, like ramps, railings, elevators, and transportation, needed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities compared to those in the United States.
  • Staff are committed to exploring creative and innovative ways to support reasonable accommodations for Volunteer success.

Gender role considerations

Traditionally, gender roles in Samoa were strongly defined, but this is changing over time. Samoa is a predominantly a patriarchal society, but recognition and prevalence of women in leadership, including holding chief ‘matai’ titles, office management roles, high political offices, women’s committees, etc. is increasingly seen. Samoa’s current Prime Minister is a woman – the first in the Pacific.

Women generally have traditional responsibilities that center in the home. These include caring for the family, cleaning the home, and preparing food. Men are typically expected to complete chores considered to be hard labor and take pride in providing for their families. Over time, these roles are overlapping.

Volunteers that are women identifying or presenting are likely to encounter challenges related to the differing expectations of behavior for women in Samoa. This is particularly true for single women and especially young, single women. The Volunteer’s safety, well-being, and reputation are perceived to be the responsibility of their host family and village and this responsibility is taken very seriously. While in the village, the host family will expect Volunteers that are women identifying or presenting to adhere to the same cultural norms their daughters would adhere to—in other words, refraining from behaviors such as bringing men to the house or private room, going out and about alone, and drinking alcohol.

During pre-service training, Volunteers will receive an introduction to gender awareness in-country and will take time to examine their own thinking about gender roles and how they have impacted them. They’ll then learn to analyze development projects using a gender lens to better understand gender roles in the host country and how these roles can impact their opportunities and behaviors —both from a personal standpoint and in relation to work and relationships in-country.

LGBTQI+ considerations

The Peace Corps actively supports Volunteers and staff of all genders and sexual orientations, and encourages Volunteers to serve as allies to their fellow Volunteers in all aspects. More information about serving as an LGBTQI+ Volunteer is available at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Peace Corps Alumni website at lgbrpcv.org.

  • There are legal restrictions on same-sex relations in Samoa and LGTBQI+ Volunteers will often find varying degrees of tolerance and acceptance.
  • Some LGBTQI+ Volunteers have chosen to come out to community members, with a result of positive and negative reactions, while some have come out only to select Peace Corps staff and Volunteers. Many have chosen to be discreet about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity within their host community.
  • Samoan culture does recognize and value the ‘Fa’afafine,’ the third gender of Samoa. Fa’afafine are typically biological males who display perceived feminine behaviors. Fa’afafine play an important role in traditional Samoan family systems and have a well-established identity and role in modern society.
  • Public displays of affection are frowned upon for all couples, including heterosexual couples.
  • As there are very few LGBTQI+ organizations in Samoa, Volunteers receive much of their support from Peace Corps Staff and Volunteer peers.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

Because of limited exposure, some Samoans will expect all U.S. citizens to be White, and are unaware of racial diversity in the U.S. For Volunteers, the range of responses to their skin color may vary greatly: from being mistaken for a community member to being questioned about their U.S. citizenship, to facing behavior and language skill expectations or ridicule, to being able to get better prices for goods and services. These instances can be turned into teachable moments for the Volunteer and the community member. All Volunteers, including White Volunteers and those of color, should be mindful of the issues of race/ethnicity that are embedded in U.S. culture and within Samoa, and should be mindful of being an ally to your fellow Volunteers.

Volunteers of color contribute a lot to educating Samoans about the diversity of American society. It would be untrue to say that racism does not exist in Samoa. While Samoans are very open to people of different colors, Asian American and Black/African American Volunteers have experienced comments and microaggressions about their appearance. These comments can be hurtful and are often made with the intent to make observations without the awareness and understanding of the American context of racial diversity and history. Sharing with Samoans the racial diversity of Americans to remove the stereotype that all Americans—especially Volunteers—are White helps a great deal.

  • Pacific Islander Volunteers:  Pacific Islander Volunteers may be met with confusion around identity and high expectations for language acquisition and cultural understanding.
  • Asian American Volunteers:  Samoa has a large population of Chinese immigrants and Asian Americans may be mistaken to have come from China or other Asian countries and/or have their US citizenship questioned.
  • Black/African American Volunteers: Black/African American Volunteers may experience unwanted attention at times. Samoan women typically wear their hair smoothly pulled back. Certain hair styles that are not common in Samoa may draw attention.
  • White Volunteers: White Volunteers may also experience unwanted attention or discrimination at times. However, they also will likely experience privilege in many ways. Navigating this and being an ally to Volunteers and locals who may not have the same experience will be important as a Volunteer.

Age considerations

  • Older Volunteers may find their age an asset in-country and will often have access to individuals and insights that are not available to younger Volunteers.
  • Pre-service training, especially language acquisition, can be challenging for older trainees, whose lifelong learning styles may or may not lend themselves to the techniques used.

Religious considerations

  • As Samoa is a Christian country, Volunteers may have trouble integrating if they do not attend church on Sundays; being known as an atheist or not attending church can affect one’s acceptance into a village and, thus, a Volunteer’s ability to further all three of the Peace Corps goals.
  • Sunday observance in Samoa is enforced, especially within the villages. Volunteers, regardless of their religious beliefs or affiliations, often find that participation in certain church services or activities, like singing in the choir, are useful for community integration and can be viewed as another aspect of the intercultural experience.
  • Volunteers who do not attend church services should be conscientious of doing any activities outside or inside the home that could be interpreted as being disrespectful of the holy day.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

  • Peace Corps Samoa does not generally host couples.
  • Couples who do serve in Samoa often face pressure from community members to change their roles to conform better with traditional relationships in-country.
  • Relationship dynamics are different in Samoa and in the United States. At times, Samoans may not understand or agree with American relationship dynamics and may be outwardly critical of relationships that do not adhere to traditional gender roles.
  • It is also helpful to think about how pressures to conform to local culture can be challenging to different genders in very different ways. Considering how your partner is being affected and discussing what, if any, aspects of your relationship should be adjusted can help reduce stress for you both.
  • Public displays of affection are frowned upon for couples.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

  • Intercultural and community development training will help Volunteers explore their cultural values, those of their host community, and their role as a Volunteer. Training will guide Volunteers in considering concepts of time, power and hierarchy, gender roles, communication styles, relationships, self, and resiliency.
  • Volunteers will also participate in cultural events and learn about local history and way of life.
  • Pre-service training also includes a panel discussion facilitated by the Fa’afafine Association of Samoa to discuss roles of fa’afafine/transgender individuals in Samoan society.
  • Intercultural training will provide opportunities for Volunteers to reflect on their own cultural values and how they influence their behavior in Samoa. They will also discuss questions about the behaviors and practices observed in Samoa, exploring their underlying reasons and meaning.
  • Intercultural and community development training will help Volunteers adjust their communication skills and understand their role as a facilitator of development. Training will cover topics such as the concept of time, village structure, gender roles, communication styles, and the concept of self and relationships.
  • Because adjusting to a new culture can be very challenging, Volunteers participate in resiliency training which provides a framework and tools to help with adjustment issues.