2011 Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge
Congratulations to 16 year old Jaymee Naughton for representing WA in the Clubs Australia Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge.
Below is an account of Jaymee's personal and very emotional account of her experience at Kokoda.
“ I’ve been home from Papua New Guinea for almost six months now and not a day goes by when I don’t think about the Trail. Walking the Kokoda Trail was the most amazing experience I have endured. I knew the trek would be physically challenging, but I didn’t quite fully understand how emotionally difficult it would be. I learnt a great deal about myself and about other people as well as the history of the Kokoda campaign.
We flew in to PNG from Sydney on the 26th of September. This was my first trip overseas and I was incredibly nervous, but I was made to feel very comfortable by everyone and I had been very well prepared by everyone from Clubs WA.
The first few days were a mixture of emotions; I was nervous about being so far away from home by myself for the first time but I was also very excited to meet so many amazing people my age and of course I was anxious about getting out there to walk the track.
I appreciated all that I had..
When we arrived in Kokoda we landed in a date palm plantation and walked to the village. This was our first section of walking for the trek; we didn’t realize how much we should have appreciated the flat ground.
It was very hard adjusting to the humidity and it was obviously very hard work making the climb. Ali, a PE teacher from Sydney pushed me and encouraged me all the way up the hill. This was when I started to realize that if I was going to do this, I was going to do this with the love and support of everyone else that was walking.
Through all the difficulties of this part of the trek, I did see probably the most beautiful thing that I saw during my trip; as we walked and it rained we were surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of fireflies.
I fell sick...but I perservered..
I had a slightly different experience to some for the first few days and it wasn’t one that I could say benefitted my experience. Due to the different climate in Papua New Guinea I had a reaction to my anti-malaria medication which caused me to be nauseous and vomiting for a few days before we worked out that it was the medication. I had to push on and continue the trek even though I was sick. I refused to give up and was determined to carry on and pay tribute to the men that had lost their lives.
In a way, I experienced a little bit of what the men on the track experienced when they were sick but were forced to keep going because it was a life or death situation. I was lucky, I had time to rest every now and then, constant access to water and a medic. The boys that walked the track didn’t have that privilege and it just made me understand how difficult their fight was.
On the trek you have a lot of quiet time, a lot of time to walk and think not only about the history that has been made there but also about yourself and who you are as a person. I found that during that time I was able to really think about what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to be as a person and what things I could change to be that better person. I learnt to value silence and quiet reflection, a moment that has not been commonly found when I returned home. Whenever I do get the chance I take the quiet time to reflect upon myself and to evaluate who I am and what I want to do. I had a lot of time to consider my path in life and it asserted my dream of becoming a doctor and working in third world countries, much like Papua New Guinea.
I missed home...but I pushed on..
There was one point on the track, about six days in where I hit my emotional wall. I was tired and sore and I was very homesick. I wasn’t used to going this long without my family and it was certainly affecting my attitude for the day. I proved to myself that I could push through the hard times, no matter how hard it gets.
I made a promise to myself..
Brigade Hill was probably the most touching place we visited on the track. We sat in between rows of sticks that marked the death of many soldiers.
We were told the story of how a group of young soldiers were sent back to the hill to push back the Japanese and give them time to get their wounded far enough down the track, and how they handed over their belongings to their mates staying behind because they knew they were going to die. The fact that those soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice for their mates both there and back home makes you seriously question your own priorities.
If the time came would I be brave enough to do the same? If they gave their life for us, for our future, doesn’t that mean that we owe them our lives? But what would they want with it? What can I do to make them proud, to make their sacrifice worth something?
Stan Bisset promised his dying brother “I’ll live a good life”. That’s what I decided I needed to, to review the priorities in my life and live out a long, fulfilling life through dedicating my time and skills to other people.
And I changed my life forever..
There are no words to describe the feeling I had when I had finished the Kokoda track. It was like everything had been lifted and the world seemed like a better place.
I was so proud of myself and of all the people that I had walked the track with. It is an experience that has greatly impacted how I live and who I am as a person. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity by Clubs WA. It truly was the experience of a lifetime.”
Applications for the 2012 Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge are now open! Click here for more information.