Thousands of girls and boys across five districts in Upolu cheered ‘No to Obesity!’ at a series of Just Play festivals to celebrate Health and Wellness week and wrap up their Just Play sessions focusing on healthy lifestyles in Samoa last week.
The nine festivals involving 11 schools taught children about their right to play and the importance of physical activity in reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases.
Just Play teachers and volunteers also educated and encouraged children about making healthy food choices, such as eating fruits and vegetables instead of junk food and fizzy drink.
The festivals – which invites parents and community members to get involved in Just Play – allows important health messages to be reiterated to children and shared on a community scale, which Just Play Samoa Project Manager Lynette Faaiuaso believes are very important elements to the success of the programme.
“Festivals are a good opportunity to emphasise our key messages and social objectives to the children and are also an effective platform to bring the community together to discuss health issues in order to make their community a better place to live,” she said.
“We wanted children and adults to understand that the programme is not only about football, it’s also about understanding how and why choosing to eat healthy food and exercising daily is important to their lives.”
Faaiuaso credits the children’s’ positive reactions to making healthy eating decisions and exercising to the fun and friendly atmosphere created by teachers and volunteers in Just Play sessions and festivals.
“We want to provide a first positive experience in physical activity for boys and girls so they can develop good exercise habits and continue to participate in sports and physical activities throughout their lives. The more they enjoy Just Play, the more physically active they’re likely to be,” she said
“Children are very excited and motivated when they take part in the Just Play programme.”
As well as developing an understanding about making healthy lifestyle choices, an improvement in the participants’ confidence has also been evident throughout the programme.
“Another great positive impact that we have noticed is that most of the children that were afraid to share what is on their mind during class discussions have learned that they have the right to speak and share through the Just Play sessions,” Faaiuaso said.
“Now they have the confidence to share and they are not afraid about whether they’re right or wrong.”
Their positive experience in the programme and increased confidence has seen more children reaching out to participate in football, taking responsibility for their own health and making positive lifestyle decisions.
“Children were asking if there’s any tournament or competition or even clubs that they can play football with, which means these children have started to have the interest and desire to play football as their main sport.
“This is another great impact of the programme in Samoa – motivating children to play football.”
About Just Play
The OFC Just Play Programme is a sport for development programme that helps children to grow, learn and explore through sport. Just Play gives a child a ball, a coach and a safe place to play. The programme shows children how to have fun with other children, be physically active and become confident in their abilities. Through the integration of social messages, Just Play helps children to develop healthy lifestyle habits, encourages gender equality and leaders in the community, promotes social inclusion and insists on sport for all. For more information on the programme please visit: www.justplayofc.org
The OFC Just Play Programme is designed and monitored by the OFC Social Responsibility Department in partnership with Australian and the New Zealand Governments, the Football Federation Australia, the UEFA Foundation for Children and UNICEF. For more information about OFC or its 11 Member Associations visit: www.oceaniafootball.com