Team PNG HERO athletes from the world of soccer, rugby, weightlifting, boxing, basketball, and karate recently hosted sports tournaments for the youth of Oro Province, inspiring the youth of the region.
A first of their kind, the day-long tournaments in Kokoda and Buna were the culmination of the Kicks 4 Kokoda program, a sport for development initiative of KTF (Kokoda Track Foundation) in partnership with the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee (PNGOC) and Grassroot Soccer (GRS).
Kicks 4 Kokoda (K4K) is a suite of soccer-based activities that provide vital information on challenges that 12-to 19-year-olds might face, including access to quality health services and referral pathways, inequality of girls and boys, gender-based violence.
The nine-session K4K SKILLZ program is delivered by coaches to mixed gender teams of adolescent participants, linking them with the mentors, information, and health services they need to grow, develop, and thrive.
Female and male Team PNG HERO athletes took program participants and community members through their paces in soccer-based activities to build on the PNGOC’s principles of Honesty, Excellence, Respect and Openness, with participants divided into four groups named according to the values.
Over 300 people participated in games centred in soccer, volleyball and badminton at the two locations over the tournament weekend.
The tournaments also provided the community with access to healthcare services at stands set up by Kokoda Memorial Hospital and Buna Health Centre.
Health workers undertook testing for malaria and other common health issues, distributed information pamphlets on family planning, sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence, distributed sanitary pads and conducted STI and counselling awareness.
Basil Jofari, Team PNG HERO athlete and KTF K4K project coordinator explains how the tournaments bring learnings from the program together.
“The K4K program is an exciting and wonderful program, where the focus is to create that pathway for the kids to health seeking behaviour, goal setting and break down barriers with our social and cultural norms, beliefs or myths.
“It allows the kids to express themselves and make wise decisions at a very young age, using the power of sports. Having the K4K tournament and seeing the PNG athletes is icing on the cake for the participants, something that they are looking forward to after their nine-week SKILLZ practices.”
Raphaela Baki Kaore, Boxer and PNG National Female Boxing Coach, believes in the power of sport to transform lives; a belief she has developed over the course of her career, as an athlete who has achieved national success and now as a mentor and coach for aspiring upcomers.
She has been involved in the K4K program since its inception, as an athlete representative in the program’s design and leading activities at the tournaments.
“I believe sport is a driving tool to change the mindset and lifestyle of our young men and women. Sports help to defy gender stereotype and social norms. Sports can make role models and show that men and women are equal.” she said.
Asiani Vagi, PNGOC Games and Programs Manager, explains how the program helps PNGOC deliver on the promotion of Olympism and various Games movements and participation of sport for all, a focus area under their 2021-2024 Strategic Plan Key Result Area of Sport in Society.
“The partnership between PNGOC, KTF and GRS enables us to deliver the tournaments in line with our strategic plan, with the first of four tournaments delivered in Kokoda and Buna by Team PNG HERO athletes.”
“The tournament also provided the opportunity for High Performance Sport Talent Identification Officer and Team PNG HERO athlete, Dia Muri to access and recognise Jaymielee Karosa, a young participant in Kokoda who demonstrated outstanding soccer skills.”
“We want to see participants have fun, get the opportunity to meet Team PNG athletes, learn lifestyle skills and go through health awareness, and that is what we saw.”
“The athletes were very grateful to be part of the team that delivered the tournament, from officiating the Games to running the Olympic Values Education Program and interacting with the participants.”
The tournaments and the K4K program were well received by the community, welcoming the Team PNG athletes and KTF team. On behalf of his village, community leader and chairman for sporting activities in Buna, Marcel Gaboe, said,
“Thank you so much for bringing this program to our community. We hope that KTF and PNG Olympic committee can continue this working relationship for this project.”
The Kicks 4 Kokoda program is a Team Up partnership between KTF, PNGOC and GRS, supported by the Australian Government.