The Solomon Islands Just Play team have continued to spread the COVID-19 awareness message, this time heading into the country’s Western Province.

Three awareness festivals were held on North Vella la Vella island and Gizo, the provincial headquarters, last week which were overseen by Just Play regional coordinator, Michael Bate’e and Just Play coordinators Vanessa Kausimae and Grace Sula.

The first festival was held on Wednesday, 9th September, at Valapata Primary School and attracted more than 200 children aged from 5 to 15 years old.

Kauaimae applauded the community spirit of their hosts, which included 10 volunteers who came onboard to assist with the successful running of the festival.

“It was very encouraging to see the community come out in good numbers to share the excitement that was evident on every child’s face,” she said.

“There were many eager to see how the festival would eventuate, I know it might not be what they were expecting. More than one individual mentioned it was a ‘first of its kind to have unfolded in Valapata village’.”

With the focus of the festivals on sharing messages around COVID-19 and WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – Kauimae felt the objectives had been achieved, and the wider community as well as the festival participants, would be the beneficiaries.

“Without doubt, I know because of these children, and from these children, even the older part of the population have been able to learn from this festival,” she said.

“Aside from knowing that the children would be coming out to play, they discovered that fundamental messages based on WASH were integrated into the games, with handwashing the ultimate focus overall.”

Two festivals were held at John F Kennedy Stadium in Gizo, with 6-12 year olds participating on Friday, and 13-16 year olds taking part on Saturday.

Once again there were more than 200 boys and girls from schools and communities in the surrounding area taking part, with participants relishing the opportunity to learn the eight steps of handwashing in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.

Gizo Just Play coordinator Frank Kiko Hong said the festivals were a great success and he hoped to continue sharing the key messages in the coming weeks to a wider audience as a result.

“I want to thank the Just Play team for coming and delivering these festivals which I believe will help our children to understand the importance of handwashing and living in a clean environment in our homes and schools,” Kiki Hong said.

“Most of our children are into football and I think this lifestyle practice is important for their social responsibility, encouraging them to look after themselves and become good sportsmen and women for our province in the future.

“I assured the children that we will continue to organise events like this in the future to help them become WASH champions.”

The next stop for the Just Play team in Solomon Islands is the Malaita Province, with COVID-19 Awareness Festivals planned for Aifo, Auki and Foia, and Taro in the Choiseul Province.

The festivals have been made possible with the support of the OFC Just Play donors and partners, the Australian Government under the Australian Aid programme, the New Zealand Government, Football Federation Australia (FFA), UNICEF and the UEFA Foundation for Children.

The Just Play Solomon Islands team also acknowledged the support of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health which supplied COVID-19 posters and pamphlets in support of the awareness campaign.

Additional reporting: Solomon Islands Football Federation