One of our fabulous Fair Gamers in 2016 was Allister Gomes who volunteered with Fair Game as part of an internship with the McCusker Centre for Citizenship. This internship placement was made possible by financial support from Wesfarmers. Thanks Wesfarmers!
Read about Allister’s experience below!
What a journey. It’s quite remarkable to think that only a week spent in the service of others, whilst surrounded by enjoyable like-minded people, can produce such a surge of positivity for my year. My internship was with Fair Game, whose primary purpose is to inspire healthy communities through recycled sports equipment. As part of our good work with regional and remote communities we run a program known as ‘Game On!’ which uses unique sport-based games to promote fitness and health. Concurrently, Fair Gamers (such as myself) deliver ‘Healthy Communities’ sessions centred around oral, feet, ear and hand hygiene, and nutrition. I completed the vast majority of my internship delivering exactly these sort of sessions in the, predominantly Indigenous, communities of the Kimberley, Western Australia.
My week began with a two and a half hour flight from Perth to Broome. And after picking up our hire vehicles from Avis, we began our four hour drive to Fitzroy Crossing – where my team of Ash, Hunter and I were based. Whilst the other team of Holly, Brendan and Lauren spent the following four days visiting communities further inland, in the East Kimberley closer to the Northern Territory border.
The next morning began with my team making the trip to the remote community of Muludja. After a walk around town to round up any youngsters that were about, we got stuck into some Game On! activities like basketball, dodge-ball tag and wedge-tail eagle (like tag with sashes). Following this we progressed to some health education through Healthy Communities, where we emphasised the importance of hand-washing (for twenty seconds to the tune of happy birthday!) prior to eating the healthy fruit that we brought with us. We wrapped up the morning’s session with some Recycle and Donate, where the youths took their pick of the recycled sports equipment that we had – such as shoes, balls and bags. I found it profoundly rewarding to watch as gear, which would otherwise go untouched, found a new home where it shall be cherished and be made useful again.
That afternoon we put on a couple of games of basketballs for the locals at Fitzroy Crossing. It was quite incredible to see how sport can bring together otherwise complete strangers. This event yielded our largest turnout, with about forty youngsters – ranging from about three to seventeen years old, showing up. It is my belief that events such as this one really embody Fair Game’s goal of inspiring healthy communities, as it promotes positive social interaction, mental stimulation and physical fitness for all during their school holidays.
The following day we travelled to another remote community, Bayulu, to deliver another session for the local children. We began with Game On!, organising games involving the agility ladder, basketball and football (soccer). We then conducted a Wellness Walkabout session – a yoga and pilates based workout that follows an exciting plot full of Australian fauna. Following on from this we progressed to a Healthy Communities session; where we not only learned about hand-washing and apple/orange eating, but also the importance of brushing our teeth (twice a day for two minutes!) and keeping our ears clean (breathe, blow, cough!). Another basketball and soccer session in Fitzroy Crossing rounded our the day!
The next morning we headed back to Muludja to deliver a second session in their town. Immediately I noticed that there were twice as many children who came to our session today! We could only assume that word had spread, since our last visit, about how enjoyable our sessions were to attend ! This time we introduced some AFL football drills and Frisbee as part of Game On!, before the children taught us to play two of their games; one known as ‘nuts and bolts’ and the other was ‘crocodile crocodile’. Next up was Healthy Communities where we introduced feet and oral hygiene, after reinforcing learning about healthy hands and bellies. We discussed with our hosts how to keep our feet healthy (trim your toenails, wash them and use socks/shoes) whilst they completed some creative colouring-in.
Before we delivered our final basketball session in Fitzroy Crossing in the afternoon, we helped the Royal Life Saving Society in their management of an inflatable playground at the Fitzroy Crossing pool. Now this pool is one of several around regional Western Australia where it is free to access, and it provided welcome relief from the (40˚C) heat of the tropical Australian climate. Yet there are several other benefits to providing a (free) swimming pool such as this one; including the clearing of patrons’ nasal cavity/sinuses, provision of another means of exercising, social interaction and mental stimulation (especially during school holidays).
A return trip to Bayulu the next morning, included more Game On! and Healthy Communities, including the construction of a hand-painted banner that read “Be Healthy Bayulu”.
That same evening we hosted a pool party at Fitzroy Crossing where we cooked some healthy stir-fry for the locals as a thank you for attending our event(s).
After being re-joined by the other Fair Game Kimberley team the previous evening, we began to head back towards Broome. But not without getting a final Fair Game session in! This time we found ourselves at Pandanus Park with about twenty-three youngsters keen to play some sport and learn about healthy living.
We headed to Cable Beach that afternoon in need of some much needed rest and relaxation. And most of us flew back to Perth the next day – but not before a quick trip to the Broome markets and back to Cable Beach!
This was certainly a challenging week, where I learnt a great deal about citizenship through compassion and service. But one thing that was made apparent to me is that process of volunteering my time and energy for others is in itself a successful outcome.
By Allister Gomes
*My special thanks go out to Wesfarmers for funding this trip for my internship