With the South Pacific Mini Games only months away, athletes around Vanuatu are already in training with coordination support from the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee, the Oceania Paralympic Committee and the Agitos Foundation.
The Paralympic Movement uses sport to empower people with a disability in Vanuatu to develop strength, confidence and belief in themselves.
A recent Talent Identification Program or “Come and Try Day” saw over 40 participants living with disability, try out for a variety of sports. These included para rowing, javelin, shot put, discus and running. The Vanuatu Cricket Association recently held a cricket day — Asco Motors “Cricket I Blong Evriwan” — and the Table Tennis Association continues to provide training for its two selected para-players.
Jean Noel Anis, Wan Smol Bag’s Sports Development Officer and Board Member of the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee comments, “We have people in Vanuatu living with disability who have considerable athletic talent. By becoming involved in sports, they become more involved in community activities and in the process, build their own levels of fitness and good health. They are role models for young people, showing that despite adversity, excellence can be achieved.”
Jean Noel has funding to support his athletes with bus fares and training specifically targeting the South Pacific Mini Games – javelin, shot put and running. Table tennis is also a South Pacific Mini Games sport and is being managed through the Table Tennis Association. Jean Noel is working closely with Mr Danny Kalangas, Physical Education teacher at Ecole Public.
Newly elected President of the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee (VPC), Margaret Macfarlane explains, “In many countries around the world, there are systems that provide considerable assistance for people who live with disability plus extensive rehabilitation programs to promote health, psychological welfare and inclusion.
The VPC is trying to provide sporting opportunities to partially meet these need for health based programs, producing results in rehabilitation.”
The VPC works with non-government organisations such as VASANOC, the Vanuatu Society for People with a Disability, Santo’s Franjipani Association and the Vanuatu Government through both the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, as well as the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, international aid and commercial entities.
The VPC undertakes the co-ordination of training, sourcing funding and technical support and the organization of international entry and teams for the Paralympic Games – the next in Tokyo in 2020.
There is no accurate estimate of numbers of people with a disability in Vanuatu. Estimates range from 10% of the population to 20%. This would be between 28,000 and 40,000 people in Vanuatu, many with hearing disorders.
With these numbers, there must be lots of potential athletes but of course, many live in isolated rural communities with few support mechanisms. With proactive campaigns through VASANOC and the VPC, it is planned for access and opportunity to improve.
Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID), Jessica Richardson is with VASANOC looking at Inclusion and Equity in sport programs – growing access and participation in sport for women and those living with a disability.
She is assisting Jean Noel and Danny Kalangas and is hoping to start work with Sanma’s Franjipani Association which has already been involved in the Talent Identification Program and has a squad of parathletes in training.
The intensive athletics program for the South Pacific Mini Games in Vila has just started – so it’s not too late to contact Jean Noel by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org to drop into Wan Smal Bag