Vanuatu Beach Volleyball star, Miller Pata celebrating. Photo: Beach Volleyball Vanuatu FB

Sport for development programs across the Pacific celebrated the power of sport to change society by running mass activities leading into International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) on Saturday 6 April.

Programs supported by the Australian government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) are introducing people of all ages, gender and abilities to new sports, and using sport to share key social messages.

Celebrations began on Friday in the north east of Fiji, where women celebrated IDSDP at a mass aerobic gymnastics session run by the Gymnastics Federation of Fiji, bringing together four communities with the support of the Housing Assistance and Relief Trust (HART) that provides services to women and children.

Across the water on Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu, NRL Fiji hosted a massive primary school rugby league competition, with more than 500 girls and boys participating. The event was live streamed on Facebook and accompanied by information stalls sharing messages about health and wellbeing.

n Papua New Guinea, national badminton representatives and para athletes visited a school in Port Moresby to run badminton sessions themed around inclusivity while, in Bougainville, scores of young people had the opportunity to try basketball during a school development clinic.

Table tennis federations across the Pacific hosted events for IDSDP and World Table Tennis Day, which both fall on 6 April. In Tonga, hundreds of school students attended a special event celebrating the inclusion of people of all abilities in table tennis, while in Vanuatu and Fiji, ‘come and try’ activities encouraged members of the public of all ages and abilities to pick up a bat for the first time.

More than 1000 children across the Pacific attended football festivals and activities for IDSDP run by the Just Play program in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, with a focus on key health messages.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu Aquatics Federation used the occasion of IDSDP to grow opportunities in water polo, with people in Port Vila invited to try the sport for the first time as part of a special tournament.

PSP is one of the largest global networks of sport for development programs, supporting activities run by 13 sports in six countries (Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu).

IDSDP is celebrated annually on 6 April and recognises the transformative power of sport and its potential in advancing positive social change.

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