Disability inclusion a major development focus for Vanuatu Volleyball
As chronicled earlier this year on sportanddev, ahead of the International Day for People with Disabilities, late 2017 through to 2018 became a launch pad for the sport of Sitting Volleyball in Vanuatu, due to the volcano eruption on the northern island of Ambae. Vanuatu Volleyball Federation (VVF) supported the disability community among those who had to relocate to the neighbouring island of Espiritu Santo, through its Volley4Change (V4C) development program.
Since then, the VVF has worked hard to develop the sport and advocate for disability inclusion in the sport in the small Pacific nation. This advocacy has gained momentum through emerging partnerships between several of Vanuatu’s leading sports federations, including VVF, the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee and local disability services and advocacy organisations.
Through its Volley4Change program, VVF has found value in such partnerships, having signed an MOU with VPC in 2018 and become a member of World ParaVolley (WPV) in 2019 – the only Pacific nation to do so.
Off the back of a very successful Sitting Volleyball coaching course in late 2019, delivered by ParaVolley Asia Oceania (PVAO) and supported by WPV, VVF coaches now deliver weekly training sessions in both the capital Port Vila and in Luganville on Santo, as well as recently being introduced through expanding volleyball activities in the northern Torba Province.
Participation in that course has also resulted in the strong capacity building of local coaches with several developing their knowledge and skills, supported by V4C coaches, through additional coaching workshops supported by programs such as OSEP – the Oceania Sports Education Program.
VVF also plans to further develop its existing para-volleyball coaching capacity through its relationship with PVAO Development Director Wei Ping Tu from Australia – who, with colleague Glenn Stewart, delivered the 2019 workshops - with opportunities for participation in further international coaching clinics expected to emerge once international restrictions relating to COVID-19 have lifted.
While 2020 has proven to be a challenging year globally due to the pandemic, with Vanuatu, like many countries, ostensibly cut off from the world, VVF has taken the opportunity to work hard at developing and consolidating its V4C programs. Beyond supporting programs that work on gender and health, V4C has been working particularly on expanding the para-volley initiatives to include Para Beach Volleyball and Standing Volleyball.
Initiatives like this do not come without challenges - logistical, cultural and financial. For people with disabilities in small and remote communities, transport and access are always an issue, with purpose-built vehicles non-existent and personal support equipment such as wheelchairs difficult to obtain and use in inhospitable terrain.
One of the other key challenges being met is the level of awareness within communities about the opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in sports such as Para-Volleyball and their entitlement to do so. But through the developing V4C para-volley initiatives and events such as the Para Sports Championships, held in June this year as a part of the Vanuatu 40th Independence celebrations, the awareness among the disability community about sport being available for them to participate in is growing.
Through these activities and the expanding V4C community programs, new issues are also being identified, such as school children with disabilities being exempted from participation in sport and physical education activities.
VVF is now looking to develop its relationships with schools and education authorities, especially in rural and remote regions, to introduce inclusive sports, such as para-volleyball, into their activities, supported by V4C staff.
While an exciting road lies ahead for Para-Volleyball in Vanuatu, key building blocks, such as effective partnerships supporting participation and community awareness, as well as government policies relating to disability inclusion in sport, will be essential for its sustainability.
Vanuatu Volleyball’s goals are to not only develop the various forms of para-volleyball at the community level, but to also eventually develop para-athletes to a high-performance level, where they can take on the world, just as the National Women’s Beach Volleyball team has done, creating champions, role models and strong advocates for the community.
Volley4Change has been supported by the Australian-government funded sport for development program Pacific Sports Partnerships, in partnership with Volleyball Australia, since 2014 providing key financial support for the development of volleyball at the community level, addressing issues around gender empowerment, health and more recently disability inclusion. While the PSP program is wrapping up in December, VVF in collaboration with its various partners, intends to continue the strong V4C development programming it has created over the past six years.
Jill Scanlon is a Media and Communications consultant for VVF.