November 6, 2021

Participants of a Smash Down Barriers session delivered on the Island of Tanna, Vanuatu.

The Smash Down Barrier’s (SDB) table tennis disability program has recommenced in Vanuatu. The SDB program aims to increase the levels of participation in quality table tennis activities by people with disability and to increase opportunities and improve the attitudes both by and towards people with a disability. The program is being managed in-country by the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee and delivered in collaboration with the Vanuatu Table Tennis Federation and ITTF‑Oceania. The program is supported through the International Table Tennis Federation Development Program.

Building on from the previous year’s activities, this year the Smash Down Barriers program continued with sessions for students and people with a disability at schools and at the Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities.

As part of the program, table tennis equipment has been donated to the schools and disability organisations to ensure sustainability by making table tennis accessible to all participants, both during and outside of the development officer visits. The disability persons organisations and schools who have been part of the SDB program in 2021 include, Vanuatu Society of People with Disabilities, Pikinini Playtime, Won Smol Bag, Epauto School, Centre VilleSchool, Isangel School, Lenakel Secondary School and Tafea College. In the first 2 months of the program more than 300 individuals have participated in the program, with more than 40 of these individuals identifying as a person with a disability.

John Bosida Iaiou and Mathias Nakat play doubles during a Smash Down Barrier session in Tanna.

Three-time Olympian Yoshua Shing delivering school sessions

In September and October the Smash Down Barriers Program Manager – Mary Mahuk and SDB Development Officer and three time Olympian Yoshua Shing arranged and delivered inclusive sessions for players in multiple schools including Epauto School, Vila East School, Lenakel Secondary School and the TAFEA College.

The feedback from the teachers and students was very positive and they were excited to have an Olympian visiting to inspire and teach the kids. A female sports teacher who was self-taught in table tennis was delighted with Yoshua’s visit as it enabled her to further her knowledge on the technical skills and rules in table tennis.

During the visit to Isangel School it was discovered that the students had never played table tennis before. The teachers and students were very excited to learn about a new sport. The school is inclusive, with students with a disability also being provided an opportunity to engage and try table tennis. Basic equipment, including adjustable nets, bats and balls were donated to the school so that the students will be able to continue playing table tennis.

At Epauto School, the table proved to be in huge demand, with many students excited to set up the new nets so they had more than one table. Prior to the new equipment the students played using a single cemented table net in a small house. They were also excited by the SDB visit and the opportunity to challenge Yoshua and Liopa Santhy who are both Vanuatu Champions.

Epauto School student challenging Olympian and Vanuatu Champion Yoshua Shing.

Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities 

Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities sports coordinators and players with a disability have continued to play table tennis and hold their own internal competitions since the SDB program’s introduction last year. The program continues to be a success as it continues to attract more players with a disability to the weekly Wednesday sessions.  The Smash Down Barrier program has already reached many schools and communities in Vanuatu, using table tennis as a vehicle to promote social inclusion, increasing levels of physical activity and to improve the lives of people with disability. The plans for the coming months are to reach even more people with a disability in schools and communities across Vanuatu. The 2021 program will culminate with an awareness and community celebration day in December to coincide with the International Day of Persons with a Disability.

Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities sports coordinators and players with a disability enjoying table tennis as part of the Smash Down Barriers table tennis disability program.