Former All Black and Fijian rugby player Joeli Vidiri will launch a new rugby programme in Fiji on Saturday 20 November aimed at improving the health of young people.
The four-year Sport for Health (Rugby) Programme is funded through the New Zealand Aid Program and is expected to reach 4,000 Fijian teenagers in its first year.
“It’s going to be a good few days. I don’t get to go back to Fiji as much as I would like to and I’m really looking forward to spending time and giving back to my country.
“The programme is a great idea and is all about the kids and their futures. We need to be making sure that they are living healthy lives and making good decisions,” said Vidiri.
The legendary wing will be joined in Fiji by the captain of the Fijian women’s team, Lailanie Burnes, and both ambassadors will attend the launch on Saturday at Churchill Park in Lautoka, spend time at community events and meeting with leaders, coaches and teenagers.
The New Zealand High Commissioner, His Excellency Jonatan Curr, will officiate at the launch function. He commented “The Sports for Health programme is about ensuring that children learn about the importance of active healthy lifestyles from a young age, while also gaining skills such as team work and fair play. We know from the research that active young people are more likely to be active adults and that is what this initiative is all about”.
The launch of the Fiji rugby programme forms part of the ‘Pacific Sporting Partnerships – Sports for Health’ initiative announced by the New Zealand Government in 2016.
The programme is a partnership between New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), in collaboration with the Fiji Rugby Union and Fiji Government.
It is designed as one way to address the increasing rates of chronic non-communicable diseases in the Pacific, such as diabetes.
The Fijian version of the programme will see teenagers aged between 14 and 19 play a fast and non-contact version of rugby known as Quick Rip.
During the programme young people will also receive education aimed at providing them with tools to make positive decisions around healthy eating and lifestyles.
New Zealand Rugby Head of Participation and Development Steve Lancaster said the programme was already seeing success in other Pacific Island nations.
“The really important thing about this programme is that it will reach young people who are currently not involved in rugby but would like to be. Offering a non-contact form of the game is a great way to introduce them to rugby, while influencing more healthy lifestyles.
“We’re also seeing great benefit in engaging community leaders, parents and educating local providers in the areas of physical activity and health lifestyles. Using rugby as a vehicle for change and creating healthy communities is really positive for everyone involved.
“We have learnt a lot from the programme roll-out in Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands and we’re hoping that allows us to hit the ground running in Fiji.”
In partnership with the Fiji Rugby Union, NZR will provide Quick Rip equipment to participants, coaching training to local providers and deliver modules on healthy eating and lifestyles to 20 regions and 200 villages in Fiji.
The Sports for Health (Rugby) programme kicks off this Saturday 20 October when the Fiji Drua’s host Canberra Vikings in the semi-final of the Australian-run National Rugby Championship in Lautoka, Fiji.
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