Member Highlights - Diana Saxton’s VSA Assignment

Recreation Aotearoa member, Diana Saxton, has been working in Solomon Islands on a six-month, Volunteer Services Abroad assignment with the National Sports Council (NSC). Diana is there in the capacity of Community Recreation Advisor to the staff, Board, and community organisations.

A key aim is to activate places and spaces to encourage community recreation for fun, health and community building purposes.  This is the first time NSC has engaged in community recreation and Diana is working alongside local staff to support their understanding and to develop a plan to get the community involved, using traditional games and cultural activities. With no formal qualifications for delivering recreation programmes or professional development support in Solomon Islands, Diana has been introducing the Recreation Aotearoa Kia Rite Hoea programme. Kia Rite Hoea is a resource and training package to running a safe and successful community event or programme. 

Staff from NSC, Honiara City Council Youth Hub and Disabilities Solomon Islands joined participants from Aotearoa in an online workshop facilitated by Esther Bukholt, Community Programme Manager at Recreation Aotearoa. Diana said, “The attendees in Solomon Islands found the training and resources provided very useful and applicable in the Solomon Islands context and are using it for planning upcoming events such as the National Youth Week and World Disability Day.” Feedback from attendees included, “the ideas are there but with the discussion I feel more inspired,” and “sharing examples gives you more insight for how to action them.”

Diana also had the opportunity to meet with teachers and students at San Isidro, a rural training centre for people with disabilities, predominately-deaf adult students with limited formal education. There she worked with a group of students to get insight into their recreation choices and aspirations. They also developed games and a physical activity session that they ran for the other students, including kastom dancing, jumping sack races, a blind fold game, tug-o-war, long rope skipping, and balloon games.

A lot of Diana’s time has been spent learning how Solomon Islands will implement their new National Sport and Recreation Policy in the wake of hosting the Pacific Games in 2023. This event has the possibility of engaging people in sport and physical activity, and the facilities that are being built for the event will be invaluable for the community following the event.

In Diana’s words, “it is certainly a golden opportunity to work with Government Ministries, NGOs, community-based organisations, sports clubs and federations, faith-based organisations, and the private sector in the Provinces and Honiara to deliver their transformative vision of an active, productive and healthy nation.”

About understanding and contributing to community recreation in the Solomons, “Being flexible and creative with doing what we can with the resources we have is essential. Most of all it is the people that matter the most and finding out what they want to do in the new facilities will be key.”

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