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Making friends across the Pacific at AIMS Games

Te Hani Matapo, age 12, from the Cook Islands. Photos: Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

The Anchor AIMS Games is all about making friends amongst the other teams, having fun and playing sport.

This year there was an even stronger Pasifika component than before with students, coaches and parents travelling to Tauranga from the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji to participate. On arrival they were all invited to a cultural exchange event at Tauranga Intermediate prior to the games officially opening.

“We have 26 from the Cook Islands, 12 from Tonga, 17 from Samoa, and about 15 from Fiji,” says Jodi Hill who is the lead teacher for the Tauranga Intermediate Pasifika group. The groups comprise athletes, coaches and parents.

“Last year Nadia Bleaken who is the development manager for Badminton Oceania contacted me and asked if our Pacifika group would like to host a small cultural exchange event before they started training. It was really exciting, and this is our second event.”

Each group gave a performance, before they all mixed it up, taking to the stage to share their cultures and dances before enjoying morning tea together.

Ofa Anau, age 13 from Tonga

“This is my first year at the AIMS Games, I’m very excited,” says Ofa Anau, age 13, who is from Tonga. “I’m going to try and get a medal. We’re all excited to come here. This is my first time to New Zealand and it’s cold!

“I liked it when all the kids from the Cook Islands and the Samoan teams came to the stage. I liked the part where we performed together,” says Ofa.

Te Hani Matapo, age 12, came last year from the Cook Islands, and is back with team members.

“Today is really fun. And I met new friends,” says Te Hani. “I got to talk with them and learn different stuff from them.

“We had 17 in our team last year, and this year we have more.”

On returning to the Cook Islands after the 2018 games, Te Hani told everyone back home how much they had all enjoyed the experience, especially visiting the local hot pools after training.

“I think the exciting thing for us is to see them all quite nervous of each other at the beginning but by the end of it, when the Tongan group hopped on to bring on the kids that they had taught something new to, all of the kids just teemed onto the stage with what they've been learning and joined in,” says Jodi.

“They’d become so familiar with each other within two hours and comfortable about sharing and collaborating.  That's the beauty of it, it's just a delight. We'd love to have longer with them.

“Last year some of our families managed to attend the events students were participating in and carried on supporting them during the Aims week. We hoped that they were able to do that again this year, too.”

Cook Island badminton team

Ray Charles Marsters, from the remote Palmerston Island in the Cook Islands group

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