Program addresses bullying, self confidence
Apelu Sports has rolled out an outreach program to address societal challenges such as bullying, gender equality, self-confidence and climate change and is targeting the grassroots.
The program is also inclusive of students and people living with disability and is called “She Hits”, which Apelu Sports Program Manager Gabrielle Apelu says will cater for everyone.
"We are providing an opportunity for all girls, able-bodied, and with disabilities to be counted and heard through the platform of sports,” she said in an interview with Samoa Observer.
“I know that we face issues such as bullying and for those with disabilities, the numbers are much higher.
“We provide access to resources and participation and at the same time we seek to cater for their needs such as finding out what their favorite sports are, what's holding them back from playing sports, and we see what we can do to address that.”
Apelu Sports comprises Apelu and three young student-athlete educators: Anasis Saipele, Mary Jae Stowers, and Barbara Roache.
The “She Hits” program addresses the gender gap that is evident at the grassroots level, where girls are stereotyped in certain roles and expectations.
"Many of our young girls are not aware that they can step outside of that box where they have been typed into. Many lack self-confidence. At the vital time, sports play a huge role in increasing self-confidence and building support systems for when they are older," Apelu added.
"This is the first time for our student-athlete educators to be a part of gender and sports outreach programs. We know through experience that sports engage students more. Kids love to play sports so using this platform to affect change is hugely beneficial.”
The three student-athlete educators spoke of their first experience being part of the outreach programs and interacting with students who have disabilities.
"For me, I think what hit me the most is seeing the smiles on their faces and their joy to play really is unexplainable. That's definitely something that got my attention," says Ms Stowers.
Ms Saipele said she was amazed at the ability of those living with disability.
"Seeing them playing is one thing, but seeing them doing what I do really is amazing. This is where [the saying] ‘if I can do it so can they’ is true.”
Ms Roache, on the other hand, said her experience working with girls living with disability has been really touching and it was fun getting to know them during the outreach programs.
The program is funded by the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand and is supported by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture [M.E.S.C.] in Samoa. It works with girls 11-14 years of age and currently has over 400 students including those with disabilities participating in the program.