In the north of Papua New Guinea (PNG), a program involving university students, is working to bring sport to children from rural village communities.
The PNG University of Technology is based in the northern town of Lae and has a student population of just 3,000. Basketball is a popular sport on campus and the local university club is known as the UniTech Bulls Basketball Club. The club is made up of university students and local community basketball players.
The UniTech Bulls have developed a program which provides primary and high school students with opportunities to learn individual and teamwork skills using the sport of Basketball. University student leaders involved in the UniTech Bulls club visit rural communities throughout the year to deliver a skills based basketball program to those from remote villages.
“We collaborate with the community, including village elders and those that organise sport for the villages and surrounding areas” says Veronica Michael. Ms Michael is the UniTech Bulls coach and has been heavily involved with the UniTech Bulls since joining the staff of the university over 20 years ago. “The program enables young people to learn new skills and it provides an opportunity to identify talented primary and high school students in the sport of Basketball. After team and skills based lessons, the students are involved in social basketball games at the end of the weekend” says Michael.
Three university students who have been involved in the program over the past three years are Raphael Arpa, Nelson Thom and Giovanni Pumbo (pictured).
Raphael Arpa is in his final year of studying Maths and Computer Sciences at PNG University of Technology, and has been a member of the UniTech Bulls club since high school. “I love the opportunities the sport of Basketball has provided me across the years and to be able to give back to younger children and teenagers (by being a part of this program) enables me to foster the future talent of basketball in our region” says Mr Arpa.
Nelson Thom has recently graduated from Divine Word University (also located in Lae) with a degree in Journalism. Mr Thom is a successful basketball player having represented his region and country in the sport. Working along side coach Ms Michael, Mr Thom has the responsibly of organising the development trips to the rural regions. “Our development program is growing every year. Whilst the pandemic halted progress in 2020, we are looking forward to delivering the program to more young people in 2021” said Thom. “The joy that shows on the faces of the young people involved in the program, inspires us to want to constantly improve. Some students have never experienced playing basketball before and others are a rising talent, but what ever the experience the person has, they have fun, they learn and the see how sport can unite a community. That is rewarding for us” concludes Thom.
Giovanni Pumbo is currently a 2nd year student studying Architecture at PNG University of Technology and is looking forward to getting back on the road to deliver the program after the hiatus of 2020. “Being a university student and being a part of this program allows me to show young people that you can make a difference. I like to show younger people that it is possible for anyone to go to university and achieve their dream career and to also continue playing sport whist studying” says Pumbo.
“Sport has the power to unite people and communities, we are aiming to do just that with this program. Bringing new skills and knowledge to these young people and seeing how much is it appreciated is very rewarding and satisfying” says coach Veronica Michael. “I am particularly proud of the players in the UniTech Bulls club for their enthusiasm, the willingness to give their time and efforts to teach youngsters and to share their own stories. Our club has a sense of togetherness and cooperation, a king of chemistry that we enjoy and this makes our trips more fun. These university students are contributing immensely back into their communities and showing that they are indeed future leaders” concludes Michael.
Word spreads fast in PNG and the program is in high demand as more and more communities hear about the program and its benefits. With high logistics costs and the program being managed on a voluntary basis, the UniTech Bulls are keen to seek supporters to assist them in delivering this valued product. For more information, to help or to connect with the UniTech Bulls Basketball club – contact FISU Oceania.