March 28, 2019

Kids taking part in Bounce it Back program (Photo: Tonga Table Tennis Federation)

 

ITTF-Oceania, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recently developed a new table tennis school program – Bounce it Back. The 8-session participation program is tailored to meet the needs of mainstream schools within the Pacific and has two objectives: –

  • Increase Levels of Physical Activity and
  • Promoting Social Inclusion

By engaging kids in fun games and activities, the program aims to generate more interest in table tennis and develop inclusive mindsets. The program is currently being piloted in Tonga across nine schools and one community group through the support of Tonga Table Tennis Federation (TTTF). The pilot commenced on Tuesday 26thof March starting with a one-day workshop for TTTF staff and local coaches.

“A key aspect of the Bounce it Back program is the promotion of social inclusion, something unique within a mainstream sports program in our region” says Rowan Fajerman – Participation Officer and co-author of the BiB manual. “We wanted to continue our work in changing negative perceptions and attitudes towards persons with a disability (PWD) and complement the existing Smash Down Barriers Disability program.”

Children with a disability in the Pacific are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in the region. Inaccessibility, lack of opportunities and entrenched negative attitudes add to the challenge and constraints in enabling them to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as their able-bodied counterparts. “Through inclusive messaging and activities, we’re hoping to address the negative attitudes towards PWD.  The program aims to highlight and celebrate the fact that we all have a unique identity and different abilities, something to be proud of.”

Trevor Hirth, Australian Para Representative and Smash Down Barriers Ambassador is in Tonga assisting with the pilot and implementation of the program along with two local Para Athletes – Siaosi Vaka and Selemaia Loamanu. “Role models like Trevor and local champions such as Siaosi and Selemaia play a critical role in changing those negative perceptions. By sharing their personal stories and demonstrating their abilities, they’re able to improve the level of understanding and acceptance amongst the participants and broader community.”

9 schools taking part in the pilot will continue the program over an 8 week period in term 2. The community pilot in Tonga concludes on Friday 5th April in conjunction with an event for World Table Tennis Day (WTTD) at Queen Salote Memorial Hall. TTTF expects up to 400 students to attend.

The manual will be made publicly available online through the ITTF-Oceania website on WTTD.

 

Local Para athlete Selemaia Loamanu assisting with launch and promoting inclusion (Photo: Tonga Table Tennis Federation)