The Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee’s (FASANOC) Voices of the Athletes (VOA) Programme has just completed two back to back community outreach activities in the western part of Viti Levu and also Vanua Levu.
Jeegar Bhavsar, VOA Co-ordinator said the weeklong programme in the West, from 14 – 18 September primarily focused on schools for special needs children between Sigatoka and Rakiraki.
“Every year we run the Olympic Day program in Suva and Lautoka. The one in Lautoka focuses on Special schools in the western part of Viti Levu”, he said.
"Due to COVID-19 restrictions this year, we had an internal event in Suva including staff of FASANOC and ONOC in June and deferred the Lautoka event to September," said Jeegar.
The schools we visited were Sigatoka Special School, Nadi Special School, Lautoka Special School, Sunshine Special School, Lautoka, Ba Special School and Ra Special School.
VOA received permission from the Ministry of Education to visit these special schools and carry out the Move, Learn, Discover components of Olympic Day. We took them through the Olympic Values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect and also played modified Games with the students and teachers from these schools. The modified games included cricket, hockey, athletics, soccer, sitting volleyball, tennis and tag rugby.
Mr. Vilitati Kina, a teacher at Sigatoka Special School commented that Monday is usually a slow day for the students but having the kids participate in the Olympic Day program certainly created a lot of buzz and laughter. “I can see the children really enjoyed it and also learnt the value of Excellence, Friendship and Respect” he said.
We took a total of 309 students from these special schools through this year’s program," said Jeegar.
Fiji Paralympic Champion, Jone Bogidrau was a boost during the outreach to the North as a perfect example that sports can break barriers despite disability. Jone’s advice was to always be positive and focus on your ability.
Olympians VacisevaTavaga and Viniana Riwai also added value to the outreach with Cricket Champion, Joana Lesianawai, whose skill of sign language assisted greatly during the outreach.
The VOA team also visited communities which include sports clubs between the Nadi Lautoka Corridor where a further 113 males and 79 females of the community were taken through the VOA messages of Be a Leader, Play True, Play Safe and Go Green.
A total of 501 people was reached during this week long program.
Upon returning to Suva, the team immediately left for Vanua Levu, to conduct a week-long program there in various communities.
The VOA team conducted outreach to 21 communities which included villages, sports clubs and the Get Into Rugby (GIR) Quick Rip Hood Program in Labasa and Savusavu. The participants were from a cross section of the community.
A 63-year-old Korovuto Netball Club member and the oldest player on the team testified that she had not been able to stand up straight as she suffered from back issues causing her to hunch but through sports, she had been able to heal her back and take part in netball competitions as well as do other things she could not do before.
The team, in partnership with the Northern GIR Quick Rip Hood Program and Fiji National Sports Commission Northern team, reached a total of 768 participants, which is the highest number we have targeted during the COVID-19 period, said Jeegar. At all times, including the earlier programs in the West, the VOA Team was mindful of COVID-19 protocols and registration at each session included contact tracer recording and hand sanitising.
Samuela Qolikoro of Laucala Village in Wailevu West, Cakaudrove said that this was the first time any such program had visited the village.“It was great to see the children having fun and engage themselves in learning some of the issues that exists in Fiji”, he said.
The team also visited the Sailing Club in Savusavu and Macuata Senior Province Rugby Team. The VOA Champions were really surprised by the level of interaction they had with the sailing athletes. Jeegar said, “these athletes were already aware of the messages we advocate on and so it made the whole experience a pleasant one.”
Vaciseva Tavaga, who visited the north for the very first time said it had been a humbling experience to have people saying they knew me or used to read about me in the papers. “I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the people of the North in getting the VOA messages across”, she said. “I can say that Savusavu is indeed the hidden paradise of Fiji.”
The VOA will now turn their focus to the district teams playing at the Senior division at the Football IDC Tournament in Suva next week.
FASANOC and VOA take this opportunity to thank the International Olympic Committee, ONOC, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Education, Fiji National Sports Commission and Get Into Rugby Quick Rip Hood Program Northern Team for their support in making these 2 community outreach programs a success.