League players from Australia and New Zealand are harnessing their popularity to promote healthy eating and education throughout the Pacific.
League players train as Pasifika ambassadors
League players from Australia and New Zealand are harnessing their popularity to promote healthy eating and staying in school throughout the Pacific.
The NRL representatives spent three days in New Caledonia at a workshop for NRLPasifika Ambassadors to discuss development challenges for the Pacific including, youth unemployment, obesity, climate change and education.
Warriors' player Ben Henry, told Daniela Maoate-Cox almost half of NRL players have Pacific Islands' heritage and can use their influence to make a difference.
BEN HENRY: We're basically trying to organise a voice for indigenous and Pacific Island players and also for the community because we noticed there are a lot of Pacific and indigenous players in the NRL that have a lot of pull and are faces of the game and therefore, we think with that sort of status we can help them, or help players help their communities and also be a voice for them. There's gender for women, in the workplace and how especially in some countries how they're abused and not treated rightly. There's also education, we're just looking at improving schools, teachers, and also health, it's no secret a lot of Polynesians suffer from diabetes and those sorts of things.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Is there anything that has been brought to your attention that you didn't know about before or that has surprised you?
BH: Yeah, it was actually the educational one. I think that's why I said it in the first place. I was just surprised at how many Pacific Islands students don't get the proper education. I think about how I spent 12 to 13 years at school and some kids over there aren't even getting two years at school probably because they have to work, provide an income for the family and natural disasters. So that took me aback and I was like, wow, that's pretty scary.
DM-C: That's quite a complex and serious issue though, how can you tap into playing a sport to help draw attention or highlight this concern, how do they link together?
BH: In New Zealand and Australia, we were looking at some numbers and graphs and people who have that school system available to them aren't going to school because they don't want to so I think it's just changing attitudes towards education and the way they view it and we try to encourage that message of, you can do this, you just gotta put your mind to it, and if you want it bad enough, you'll get it.
DM-C: And sport has a strong following in the Pacific so hearing that message from someone such as yourself has a bit of weight to it.
BH: Yeah and that's why we want to get as many players that are passionate about this thing behind this message because it's a lot more powerful coming from a player that kids can see that plays but off the field they're studying or they're putting in that effort to practice what they preach in other words. That's powerful man, I think as a kid, one of my heroes growing up was Stacey Jones, and if he came and talked to me about that sort of thing I'd be all ears and that's the sort of effect that current and ex-players can have in their communities and at schools.
DM-C: So what's the plan from here, once you return you've got some strategies, some ideas but how are you going to put that into action?
BH: Yeah, that's the challenge, is to implement it and go back to our clubs. We've got all these ideas, but the hardest thing is putting it into action and we need to be all about action because that's what we've been talking about at these workshops. That's the most important thing and that's something we're looking to address when we get back to Australia and New Zealand.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: