Local club making difference to Pacific communities

erakor school 2It’s often said that one person can make a difference in the world.

Imagine then what outcome 60 people can have on the lives of people and communities in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

For the second year in a row, a group from the Olinda Ferny Creek Football Netball Club is travelling to Vanuatu for two weeks where they will not only visit schools and hold football and netball clinics, but they’ll also volunteer their skills in hospitals and helping local communities.

The group will  visit four different islands, run clinics for about 1500 boys and girls  and will also play exhibition games against local representative sides.

The club, from Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars of sporting goods, medical equipment, tools and educational supplies and loaded it into a 40-foot shipping container which they will distribute once the group arrives in Vanuatu on September 22.

packing container 4One of the key organisers of the trip is netballer Samantha Royce, who has been a regular visitor to Vanuatu after spending seven months working in a remote village on the island of Maewo in 2008.

She said through contacts that she’s made throughout the country, the club was able to get involved with the Vanuatu Netball Association and AFL Vanuatu and volunteer their time to visit local communities.

Last year, 44 footballers, netballers and club officials travelled across. This year the number heading over is 60.

“Every single person who went last year said hands down it was the best experience of their life,” Royce said.

“A lot are going again just because of the difference it makes. A couple of the players are bringing their families along so they can get to experience how rewarding it is. The youngest (on the trip) is six years old and the oldest is one of our committee members who’s 65.

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“The personal development that everyone gets out of it is priceless. It is definitely rewarding.”

IMG_1734Royce said 22 netballers from the Olinda Ferny Creek’s four senior sides are part of the touring party – including their A Grade coach Tamara Luke, a former national league player.

She said Netball Victoria, rival clubs in their Yarra Valley Mountain District Football Netball League and the Boroondara Netball Association had been among those to donate netball equipment which they will give  to 15 schools.

The club’s A Grade assistant coach Ashlee Howard, also a former national league player and ex-Melbourne Vixen, has been instrumental in helping secure sporting equipment from netball associations.

“I’ve been totally blown away by the generosity,” Royce said. “I was thinking, at best, we fight fill a 20-foot container with all the equipment but we’ve filled a 40-foot container to the brim.

“AFL Vanuatu said that they would use that as their change rooms (after its unloaded).”

pele school 1As a result of last year’s inaugural visit, the club arranged for AFL Vanuatu’s Kilip Andrew to come to Australia this year and spend a season playing with their football teams and he’s been warmly welcomed into the club and community.

Royce said next year they’re hoping to arrange for two young footballers and netballers to experience the same opportunity – be billeted out to host families, attend school and also enjoy playing sport on the weekends.

Netball Australia’s International Development Manager Olivia Philpott has praised Olinda Ferny Creek for their work and said it’s complementing the programs being supported by NA through the Australian Government’s Pacific Sports Partnership program.

“Under this program, Netball Australia provides resources and support for grass roots sport development.  We also work closely with the Vanuatu Netball Association to build their capacity to plan and deliver quality netball programs that offer leadership and regular participation opportunities for women and girls,” Philpott said.

Picture1“Netball Australia strongly supports clubs taking the initiative to connect and learn from other netball communities around the world, as it directly benefits the implementation of development programs across Australia and the pacific.

Royce is proud of the relationship the OFCFNC has already built with the communities in Vanuatu and hopes it will inspire other clubs around Australia to do something similar.

“If this one club can make this difference to a small country in the Pacific islands, if others can do something similar we’d be able to make a real difference,” Royce said. “Especially netball, being such a popular sport around the world.

“It’s made a difference to our club as well. Every single person who went last year said it’s changed their lives. It’s definitely rewarding.”

If your club would like to connect with a club in the pacific please get in touch with Netball Australia via infonet@netball.asn.au