The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on players’ mental and physical well-being, especially people with disabilities and the youth. As restrictions start to ease in some countries, ITTF-Oceania and national associations have been working hard to re-engage players during these unprecedented times and ensure the mental and physical health of individuals are catered for. During times of anxiety, crisis and fear, participation in physical activity can have strong positive impacts on both mental and physical health and wellbeing, often leading to reduced and anxiety as well increase in self-esteem and mood.
Smash Down Barriers and Bounce it Back restart in Tonga
Tonga Table Tennis Federation (TTTF) has restarted Smash Down Barriers (SDB) and Bounce it Back sessions across Tonga, visiting multiple schools, disability centres, rehabilitation centres, and community clubs.
SDB focuses on increasing 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. Meanwhile, Bounce it Back aims to increase levels of physical activity and social inclusion in schools. By engaging kids in fun games and activities, the program aims to generate more interest in table tennis and develop inclusive mindsets.
These programs has been especially important following the period of inactivity due to COVID-19, and TTTF’s development officers are dedicated to re-engaging individuals with more opportunities, equipment and more training sessions to ensure the wellbeing of players.
ITTF-Oceania recently explored the inspirational story of Smash Down Barrier participant, Evalingi Setefano, who’s life has been changed since she joined the program two years ago. Evalingi has been in a wheelchair for most of her life with limited ability to use both her hands, but now trains twice a week with dreams of representing Tonga in the future.
Smash Down Barriers Vanuatu and Vanuatu 40th Independence Day Para Championships
Earlier this year, Smash Down Barriers (SDB) in Vanuatu gained a new partnership with the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee (VPC). The SDB program in Vanuatu is now managed in-country with support from the VPC, and delivered in collaboration with the Vanuatu Table Tennis Federation (VTTF) and ITTF‑Oceania. The program now includes three new staff; an in-country program manager and two local development officers, who ensure that regular and high quality SDB regular sessions take place, including regular visits, fun days, and celebration days. The new collaboration allows for future sustainability of the program, as well as for VTTF to strengthen their governance and capacity, while ensuring positive promotion of persons with a disability and inclusion. As restrictions have eased, VTTF and VPC have started running weekly activities at six different organisations for people with disabilities in Port Vila, led by Vanuatu’s top players with plans to expand to other communities in Vanuatu.
As part of the new partnership, VPC, VTTF, SDB and Vanuatu Volleyball recently hosted the Para Independence Championships in celebration of Vanuatu’s 40th Anniversary of Independence. This event had an amazing turnout of participants, with both para and able-bodied players supporting the event and celebrating both the Independence Day anniversary and the achievements and successes of Vanuatu’s para athletes. The Para Championships was the first of its kind and marked an monumental occasion in highlighting the important role sport could play in the lives of people with disabilities and was the first collaboration between the VPC, Smash Down Barriers and Volley4Change.
Tahiti Youth and Open Championships
Fédération Tahitienne de Tennis de Table (FTTT) recently held their Youth and Open Championships with a record number of participants.
Open Men’s: Alize Belrose
Open Womens’: Heimoe Wong
Youth Men’s: Arii Pambrun
Youth Women’s: Heimoe Wong