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Program adapts, but mission remains the same for Smash Down Barriers

Copyrights: ITTF Oceania

Program adapts, but mission remains the same for Smash Down Barriers

The global pandemic may have shifted the course of many sporting activities around the globe, but the Smash Down Barriers Table Tennis Disability Program (SDB) has successfully navigated the storm to continue its mission to help promote community, inclusion and good physical and mental health across the Oceania region.

Smash Down Barriers contributes to improving outcomes for people with a disability (PwD) in the Pacific who are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in the region. The program currently operates in Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu. The program is funded through an Australian Government aid program and managed by ITTF‑Oceania. Activities are delivered by Pacific Table Tennis Federations, in collaboration with national disability organisations and relevant government ministries.

While this year has meant some restrictions for programs in schools, there have still been many great moments to celebrate.


Fiji Table Tennis Association (FTTA) recently celebrated International Deaf Awareness week with the local deaf community. The day featured educational sessions as well as fun and inclusive table tennis games, the latter proving to be the highlight for many participants. FTTA works closely with the Fiji Association of the Deaf to deliver successful events, raise awareness and to promote and improve inclusion opportunities for those with hearing impairments.

Fiji Table Tennis Association’s role in SDB is to bring people together through table tennis and have fun, whilst engaging in physical activity. FTTA has an ‘opportunities for all’ mindset when it comes to table tennis and days of celebration, as highlighted by the diverse range of days and events they celebrate, including the International Day for People with Disabilities, Day for Women & Girls, local youth celebrations, Fiji Day, Civil Wellness Outreach, etc.


As part of the SDB program, Pacific Table Tennis Federations are also encourgaed to provide athletes with disabilities with similar opportunities as able bodied athletes. This is to be done not only by participating in table tennis sessions, but also by providing chances for the indivudals to have personal growth and aspirations.

Tonga’s most recent initiative of a community-wide business house competition has done just this. The event was inclusive and empowered individuals with disabilities by creating an equal playing field, where a new-found respect has grown for them as they showcased their skills, including a team from Naunau Alamaite Tonga Association (NATA).

NATA is an organisation that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, with an aim to improve their situation in Tonga. Team NATA members demonstrated their skills, resulting in changing the perceptions of those around them. “Team NATA players are very skillful despite their disabilities. After our loss we no longer underestimate what they can achieve,”  said Bruno Falevi, member of team Matatoa.

Tonga also continues to deliver the Bounce it Back Table Tennis Schools program, with table tennis leading to increased levels of physical activity of youth, whilst simultaneously educating them about important values like equal treatment of their peers and the importance of inclusion over discrimination, leading to greater acceptance of people with a disability.


Vanuatu also continues to deliver activities on an ongoing basis. Their SDB program recently celebrated Vanuatu’s 40th Independence Day in style, by holding an inclusive Fun Day and competition aimed at bringing the community together.

Vanuatu's Rodney Ben encourages you to hear about the positive impact that the SDB program is having on individuals, and the ripple effect on communities by viewing a short video on the SDP program. In the video, Rodney talks about how table tennis gave him confidence and changed his life.

Despite the tough times rippling around the world, the SDB program and table tennis continue to work hard to provide a simple and fun means to keep communities together, to keep them mentally and physically active, to bring them together no matter their differences, and to educate the future youth to embrace everyone in their communities.

All countries are now focused on celebrating with communities in style the International Day of People with Disabilities on Dec 3rd.


Article type



ITTF Oceania


Friday, November 27, 2020 - 15:21