Why Samoa? Fa’asamoa!
“When I landed in Samoa, I really didn’t know what to think.  It sure wasn’t LA!  At first I missed the fast life But now I can speak Samoan, catch fish, cook meals in an umu, and live without my I-pad; I finally understand how Samoan’s can have so little and be so happy.  I want to bring that understanding back to LA.”  -Brad

Samoa is a paradise.  It’s beautiful, tropical, serene and devoid of many of the stresses and distractions of modern western life.  But Fa’asamoa, or the Samoan way, is what makes Samoa a true paradise and sets Coral Reef Academy apart from other programs.  Fa’asamoa is a culture of acceptance, stability, respectfulness, and tradition.  By introducing students to the Fa’asamoa and weaving it into every aspect of our program, our team of licensed therapists, educators, and Samoan mentors is able to provide the ideal milieu for maturation and healing. 

Fa’samoa contrasts with western culture in ways that are intrinsically therapeutic for young men who have lost their way in the maze of western culture.  Some of these contrasts are noted below and, as you’ll see, represent a perfect antidote for our own frenetic and self-absorbed teen culture.  

The individual is central Family and community are central
Respect is a right Respect is earned
Speed and efficiency Relaxed and methodical
Wealth = money and possessions Wealth = Family, friends, food and shelter
The squeaky wheel gets the grease Only respectful requests earn an audience
Leadership is grasped through authority Leadership is earned through service to others
Adulthood is a legal status granted based on age Adulthood is a social status earned through demonstrated contribution and responsibility
Complexity and busy multitasking Simplicity
Children and adults interact as peers Respect is given to elders and those with more experience
Fast, restaurant food Slow, home-made food
Blood is thicker than water Everyone who comes here is embraced as family unconditionally
Learning by experimentation Learning by tradition and custom
A focus on material things A focus on people
Youth-driven culture Love, respect and care for the elderly
Independent or top-down decision making Consensus based decision making
Objectification of women Respect for mothers, sisters and women generally

Our licensed clinicians, recreation staff and mentors have broadly structured Coral Reef Academy’s treatment program around the concept of a voyage—which is very much in keeping with current psychosocial research and ancient Samoan culture.  When a young man arrives at Coral Reef Academy his journey starts with traditional ceremony to welcome him to a new culture and a new family.  Over the course of the next several days, he works with program staff and his family to map out specific milestones for his journey from arrival in Samoa to his departure.  These milestones fall into six categories: Individual, Self-Care, Family, Academics, Cultural Immersion and Community.  The journey is symbolically charted on a wall map of Upolu Island so that he can chart his daily, weekly and monthly progress toward his ultimate goal—Faleolo Airport where he will depart for home after having progressed through the milestones he has helped construct.


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John came back from Samoa speaking Samoan, offering to help around the house and with a sparkle in his eyes I hadn’t seen in two years. We sent Coral Reef Academy our confused, hurting boy and got back a strong young man.”
- Jack M.

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