Children in Vanuatu celebrate Universal Children’s Day through sports

By Rebecca Olul, UNICEF Vanuatu

Josh reading his hopes for children speech at the sports festival in Vanuatu. UNICEF Pacific/2016/Rebecca Olul
“The first thing I would like for every child is love,” said 11 year old Josh.

Using these powerful words Josh helped to open the Universal Children’s Day and UNICEF 70th celebration event in Vanuatu on 18 November. Over 300 excited children aged 9 to 15 years old from Port Vila and around the island of Efate, gathered to celebrate with a sports festival.

The Vanuatu Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (VASANOC) and Olympic Solidarity partnered with UNICEF to host this day of fun activities, playing and learning especially for children. The sports festival aimed at increasing children’s knowledge of their own rights and about the shared UNICEF and Olympic values of respect, fair play, and caring for the environment. The activities also contributed to raising awareness of healthy living and increasing the interest of children in the national sports federation development programme.

With the theme of ‘playing to learn and learning to play’, different sports federations under VASANOC ran activity stations offering: archery, basketball, cricket, football, hockey, rugby, netball, and athletics to name a few.

“My favourite game today is hockey,” said 12 year old Darren from Tanoliu School eagerly. “I have my own hockey team at home. I loved every other thing that we did today!”

The Just Play team from Vanuatu at their activity station. UNICEF Pacific/2016/Rebecca Olul

Just Play, also participated at the sports festival to celebrate children. The Oceania Football Confederation’s sport for development programme is supported by UNICEF and uses football to communicate messages around developing healthy lifestyle habits, encouraging gender equality and promoting social inclusion.

Partners, such as, Ministry of Education & Training, Ministry of Health, Civil Registry and Vital Statistics, and Oxfam participated in the celebration. Oxfam engaged with children on the importance of good sanitation and hygiene to commemorate World Toilet Day (19 November). The Department of Youth, Sports Development and Training supported the event by providing youth volunteers.

Each child was given a Pikinini (child) Passport which included messages on children’s rights and the promotion of respect and kindness. Every child who had all 10 boxes on their passport ticked off by supporting staff, received a small prize.

13 year old Arsel enjoyed archery. He said, “I really liked shooting with the bow and arrows.” The archery team occasionally goes to his school to teach the sport.

At one activity station, children had the opportunity to learn about the importance of a birth certificate. Those who did not have a birth certificate were able to get their birth registered on the spot through the Civil Registry mobile birth registration station.

Chidren at the sports festival had the opportunity to register their birth and receive a birth certificate through the Civil Registry mobile birth registration station. UNICEF Pacific/2016/Rebecca Olul

“I really enjoyed the programme. I learnt more about the rights of children and what children would like to be in the future,” said 19 year old VASANOC volunteer, Jacklyn, who supported the UNICEF children’s hope painting station. “I would like to think about how we can better support children who are out of schools in communities to also participate in such events in future.”

UNICEF used this opportunity to kick start celebrations of 70 years since the agency was established. On 11 December 2016 UNICEF celebrates with its partners globally, regionally and in Vanuatu, 70 years of bringing hope to children and advocating for their rights across the world, including some of the most difficult and challenging situations. UNICEF has been in Vanuatu for almost 25 years partnering strongly with the Government and partners across all sectors. The anniversary is an opportunity to highlight the many urgent needs of children and their families worldwide, while celebrating the successes for children that have been realised over the last number of decades.