Disability inclusive vocational training in Samoa

Disability inclusive vocational training in Samoa

By Helen Colla

On Wednesday 24th July, I had the privilege of representing Don Bosco Vocational and Technical Centre (DBCVTC) at a meeting of  Nuanua O Le Alofa, Disability Advocacy Organisation in Samoa (N.O.L.A.).

The meeting was held in Apia. So that means that I had to catch the 6am ferry from Savaii to Upolu and from there a bus to the capital city to get to the meeting. I, then, had to return on the 4pm ferry. It was an early start and a long day, but it was worth it.

N.O.L.A. is an inspirational organisation that is run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. They started in 2001 and have been doing great work for Samoans with disabilities ever since. As part of their vision of Samoans with disabilities being active contributors in society, they invited education providers from both islands to meet with N.O.L.A members and tell them what their schools and courses can offer. It was a wonderful get together and very informative for everyone. 

It was held at a fancy resort, the Tanoa in Apia, so the morning tea and lunch were a real treat. I don’t normally get to eat like that on a volunteer’s income. Young people and not so young people with a variety of disabilities attended the meeting and made me feel very welcomed. I was the only non- Samoan at the meeting and they were very mindful of the fact that I did not speak Samoan. Most of them could speak English well and made a huge effort to include me in the day’s proceedings. 

I have been working with DBCVTC for the past 18 months, assisting them with applying for, and offering, nationally accredited training. The organisation’s goal is to provide poor and disadvantaged young people in Samoa with hope and a positive future by means of education, trades training, sport and recreation activities and cultural opportunities.

So far, DBCVTC has the approval to offer the nationally accredited programme for the Samoa Certificate I Trades Foundation Skills and we will commence this program in 2020 as the first private provider to offer this accredited training programme in Samoa. For the past two years or so, the vocational teachers have been working very hard on the application and their studies in Certificate of Adult Teaching. We are currently preparing the resources and workshops in readiness for next year. DBCVTC has also put in an application for approval to offer the nationally accredited programme of the Samoa Certificate I in Hospitality.  No one else in Samoa is offering that programme.

Most of the members of N.O.L.A. just want a job and help contribute to their families and villages. By attending DBCVTC and completing the accredited programme, a graduate of DBCVTC will have a certificate that can be recognised by employers and other training providers, in Samoa and overseas, as an indication of the skills and knowledge that they have obtained and can be confident of their abilities (and not disabilities) as employees.

It was wonderful to share this with the members of N.O.L.A. and to invite any of their members, who live on Savaii, to come and visit the school. DBCVTC are keen to assist any citizen of Savaii with furthering their education through professional skills and knowledge in the vocational sector. DBCVTC hopes to work with N.O.L.A. and their members so that we can accommodate them and help them realise their dreams.

N.O.L.A. encourages society to focus on people’s abilities and not their disabilities. We could all learn from such a special message. They are all truly inspirational people and I learnt more from them than they did from me. I hope that DBCVTC and N.O.L.A. are able to work together to assist the citizens of Savaii. What an accomplishment that would be. I feel so lucky to be a part of it and hopefully will see it come to fruition before I complete my placement.

Helen Colla has been supporting Don Bosco with the process of accreditation for vocational training programs for two years. The organisation now offers accredited courses in Trades Foundation Skills that directly improves the employability of young people in Savaii. To support Don Bosco in gaining accreditation for their hospitality program, become a regular donor to this project.