Student leaders from the Papua New Guinea (PNG) University of Technology are helping to deliver a skills-based basketball programme to remote villages in the Pacific nation.
The UniTech Bulls Basketball Club is the university’s official basketball team and is made up of students and players from the local community.
The club, situated in the northern town of Lae, has looked to use basketball to provide primary and high school students with the opportunity to learn individual and teamwork skills.
UniTech Bulls coach Veronica Michael, who has been at the club for more than 20 years, has seen first-hand how much of an impact the programme has made on young people in rural communities.
"We collaborate with the community, including village elders and those that organise sport for the villages and surrounding areas," said Michael.
"The programme 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.
"These university students are contributing immensely back into their communities and showing that they are indeed future leaders."
Raphael Arpa, Nelson Thom and Giovanni Pumbo have been part of the programme for the past three years.
Arpa is in his final year of studying maths and computer sciences at the PNG University of Technology and has been a member of the UniTech Bulls 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 programme] enables me to foster the future talent of basketball in our region," said Arpa.
Thom, a recent graduate from Lae-based Divine Word University with a degree in journalism, has represented his region and country in basketball.
Working alongside coach Michael, Thom has the responsibility of organising the development trips to rural regions.
"Our development programme is growing every year," said Thom.
"Whilst the pandemic halted progress in 2020, we are looking forward to delivering the programme to more young people in 2021.
"The joy that shows on the faces of the young people involved in the programme, inspires us to want to constantly improve.
"Some students have never experienced playing basketball before and others are a rising talent, but whatever the experience the person has, they have fun, they learn and the see how sport can unite a community.
"That is rewarding for us."
Pumbo is a second-year student studying architecture from the PNG University of Technology and is looking forward to getting back on the road to deliver the programme after the hiatus of 2020.
"Being a university student and being a part of this programme allows me to show young people that you can make a difference," added Pumbo.
"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."