Window into a Kokoda Kid's World: Part 4
Instalment Four: What floats the KCYP boat
Jane* and the Tweed Kokoda Kids cooled down last weekend at Jack Evans Boat Harbour where the annual Tweed Dragon Boat Festival took place. They were not there to win the race but to support Kids In Need (KIN) and put into practice some of the hard-earned team skills they have developed since they started the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program last May.
These group of young people from the Tweed area belong to one of three regional groups that are participating in the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program (KCYP). They returned in early October from Papua New Guinea, the highlight of the youth program each year.
Many Kokoda Kids have experienced family, school and social hardships, but few have experienced tough, physical adversity. A core tenet of KYF youth programs is that young people realise their full potential only when they are pushed to their limit. Hence, a period of rigorous physical conditioning and emotional and social development prepares them for two Kokoda Challenges (the 30 km Brisbane Kokoda Challenge and the 96km Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge).
These events raise funds in support of the popular youth program and other programs for at-risk youth. The teens draw inspiration from stories of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice that enabled Australian service people to face and conquer many obstacles they encountered during World War II.
The trip to Papua New Guinea was earned through commitment, teamwork and personal growth. One group of teens retraced the steps of young Australian soldiers who fought the Japanese on the Kokoda Trail in 1942, defending Australia against imminent invasion. The remaining Kokoda Kids lived and worked with local PNG villagers in a cultural and community experience that seventeen year old Jane describes as deeply satisfying.
“I don’t think I really expected this or was prepared for it but there was such a strong emotional bond with the villagers in such a short period of time. The people are so willing to accept you no matter who you are. They really treated us like their brothers and sisters.”
The Kokoda Kids have now embarked on an eight month community service phase. In this final leg of their personal development journey, the teens are expected to attend six events that are organised by Kokoda Youth Foundation, and two that they must organise themselves.
Their fundraising and participation in the dragon boat races is one such event where the fun and hilarity created through twenty individuals paddling a longboat over 100 metres and around a buoy in the quickest time possible. This novel fundraising event is designed to provide free school supplies to kids in need of educational support.
Prior to last Sunday’s Annual Kids In Need Dragon Boat Festival, they spent a Sunday assisting the Disable Surfers Association of Australia (DSAA) at Currumbin, Flat Rock Beach.
The KCYP community service calendar also includes helping with the set up and running of the Nerang Celebrates Christmas event on December 5 and another DSSA event to be held on December 7. Christmas gift-wrapping in a local shopping centre and aged care facility visits are among some of the other projects the Kokoda Kids will participate in.
The hard work and commitment invested by the Kokoda Kids not only increases their confidence and independence in the short term, but also develops skills and support networks they can rely on well into the future. It fosters a social conscience that continues to pay dividends to the community for many years to come.
*Jane is a past Kokoda Kid and this name is a pseudonym.