Schools in Tari, Mendi, Hides and Nipa-Kutubu will all be ringing to the sound of leather on willow, thanks to a funding deal between Oil Search Foundation and Cricket PNG that will also see improvements to four sports facilities.
Established by Cricket PNG back in 2014, but until now confined to Port Moresby, Kriket Blo Olgeta is all about that very phrase – translation: “Cricket Belongs to Everyone”. It sees coaches go out into schools and villages to teach basic cricket skills and reinforce the fact that it is a fun game to play.
In between sessions on batting and bowling, however, participants are also invited to exercise their minds. The program features a series of short courses on subjects such as personal safety, money management, hygiene and health. A fourth course focuses on preparing school leavers for the workforce, while a fifth covers violence against women.
Speakers also discuss the value of a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as the importance of inclusiveness and respect.
“The key messages that comes with these programs tends to be pretty carefully targeted, and quite valuable for local communities,” says Cricket PNG’s General Manager, Lee McDowell.
“And we think that these sorts of messages can come across in a slightly more subtle way when kids have been running about, having fun.”
“Obviously, it would be nice if we could unearth a star batsman or bowler of the future, but mostly we really just want to help people get active, have fun and eventually become a nurse or a pilot or whatever. The goal is to improve people’s lives and give them an avenue to see what’s out there. We’re obviously very appreciative of OSF having the vision to help us promote Kriket Blo Olgeta and bring it into new areas.”
For OSF Executive Director, Stephanie Copus-Campbell is pleased with the approach to helping youth through partnership.
“Cricket PNG has just done a wonderful job of getting all sorts of different organisations to contribute in all sorts of ways,” she says. “They have the Tribal Foundation talking about domestic violence. They have Bank South Pacific talking about financial literacy. They have all sorts of health officers talking about lifestyle diseases, and they have the Institute of Business Studies covering off career development.
“It’s a great example of how so many organisations across PNG are willing and able to contribute to its development. They just need an opportunity to realise that potential, and we’re very impressed with the imaginative way that Cricket PNG have been able to provide it.”
For OSF’s Phillippe Allen, who helped to orchestrate the deal, another big appeal lay in its timeliness. “Cricket in PNG is enjoying a renaissance,” he says. “At the Pacific Games, the Men’s team won gold and the women’s team silver, and now the Men’s team has made the World Cup finals in Australia next year.
“And cricket really does ‘belong to everybody’. It’s a sport that every single person can play, regardless of their age, size, gender or fitness. And it’s a sport that everyone can enjoy.
“I’m thrilled that 35,000 more kids are going to get the opportunity to acquire some cricket skills and learn a little more about life’s challenges at the same time.”