Like so many in the sports world, OFC Just Play Programme teams across the Pacific are adjusting to a new normal.

For the staff in Fiji that means putting their heads together to develop and revise Just Play Emergency Programme resources, and support the design of two new components – a Just Play Deployment Guide, which will help to train teams responding to future disasters and a Just Play Emergency Preparedness Guide, which will provide teachers and community volunteers with a better understanding of how to prepare for natural disasters in the Pacific.

In an area of the world at the forefront of climate change, the Pacific is one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions. In a six-year period, between 2009 to 2016, the region was affected by 42 natural disasters, ranging from tropical cyclones, to volcanic eruptions, flash flooding, landslides and earthquakes.

The Just Play Emergency Programme recognises the important role sport can play in helping children to recover from natural disasters. Developed by the Oceania Football Confederation and UNICEF, the emergency programme is used to disseminate critical messages and support the emotional recovery of children in times of emergency.

The Just Play Emergency Programme in action with kids from Qamea. Credit: OFC/Palombi

Using a series of play-based sessions, Just Play teaches children about personal safety, the importance of hand washing and how to safely store food.  The programme also teaches children about taking care of each other, by looking, listening and acting when someone is in need.

Having been forced to deliver the OFC Just Play Emergency Programme twice in the past four years, under pressure following unavoidable natural disasters, Fiji Football Association Just Play Programme Manager Lavinia Yalovi is relishing the opportunity to do some forward planning ahead of the upcoming Tropical Cyclone season – which is set to begin at the end of next month.

“This workshop has provided the team with the opportunity to prepare in advance of the upcoming cyclone season and to strengthen our tools and resources, based on past experience.  One of the outcomes of the past emergencies is recognition of the programme, from government ministries and partners, as a very positive tool to support the emotional recovery of children.  Since the programme’s launch in 2015, there has been a great demand for the programme in evacuation centres, schools and communities,” Yalovi said.

“One of the strengths of the Just Play Emergency Programme is that it can be rolled out in different formats, at short notice.  Depending on the type of natural disaster, and the need, the programme has the flexibility to be delivered in a variety of different ways.”

The workshop is being overseen by OFC Social Responsibility Programme Manager, Melissa Palombi, who said the Just Play Emergency Programme has been implemented in Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and India in response to natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions, flooding and tropical cyclones.

Fiji FA Just Play Programme Manager, Lavenia Yalovi, runs a session during the WASH Festival which closed this week’s workshop in Savusavu. Credit: OFC/Palombi

“The Just Play team in Fiji has the most experience, both delivering and supporting the rollout of emergency programmes, across the Pacific,” Palombi said.

“This week’s workshop was designed to use the team’s knowledge of supporting emergency activities in Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and India, and to translate lessons learnt, to improve, enhance and expand the Just Play Emergency Programme resources.

“Following the workshop, the resources will be used in 2021 to support capacity building throughout the region, ensuring that Just Play teams are equipped to deliver preparedness training, emergency response activities and post-emergency recovery programmes in evacuation centres, schools and communities.

“In addition to the redesign of emergency programming components, Just Play teams across the region are each set to receive a deployment kit to help support future programme delivery, especially those taking place in remote and isolated locations. The new kits will ensure that our teams are well prepared and ready to respond to all different types of natural disasters.

“Procurement of these critical supplies would not have been possible without the support of the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, the UEFA Foundation for Children and UNICEF and we would like to thank them for their on-going support.”