The Kokoda Challenge is a program that offers young people between the ages of 16 and 22 the opportunity to walk the Kokoda Track over ten days between 28th September and 9th October. When the clubs associations throughout Australia, including Clubs WA set out in search of young Aussies to walk the Kokoda Track, 16 year old Sophie Smith from Bunbury was lucky enough to be one of the chosen.
Sophie is in Year 11 at the Bunbury Catholic College and has developed natural leadership skills through her involvement at school. She is also an active participant in the local community, volunteering her time at the Surf Life Saving Club, Girl Guides and the Red Cross Soup Van.
Sophie has just returned from the Kokoda Track and here’s what she has to say :
"Along with 21 other young trekkers, I was selected by Clubs WA to attend the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge during the October school holidays. I was given the opportunity to walk the 133km Kokoda Track over ten days, following the footsteps of our heros who fought during the Second World War. I had the chance to stand at Isurava Memorial and the spot where Bruce Kingsbury was awarded the first Victoria Cross on Australian soil, where we took part in a moving dawn service. The days started early and were always hot, sticky and humid, and we greeted rain everyday at four in the afternoon. The track covered difficult terrain through the jungle with multiple river crossings. Photographs don’t really do the steep terrain justice or show how physically demanding it was. A most moving experience was meeting Ovoru Idiki. At 103 years of age, he is one of the last surviving Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, who directly helped carry injured Australians and supplies during the campaign. It was an awe inspiring moment to see him with the Australian flag draped across his knees and proudly displaying numerous medals given to him by fellow trekkers. Our carriers were the most amazing people. They were honoured when you called them a Modern angel. They kept us safe, taught us their native language, sung songs, and shared stories of their families and villages. They became our Papua New Guinean family. There was an amazing transformation on our final night in Papua New Guinea. On request of our carriers, we sung our National Anthem once more, from the feeble singing at Isurava Memorial our voices were transformed into a loud unifi ed song and you could tell the track had touched us all."
Sophie with a carrier
The intention of the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge is to identify young people within the Western Australian community who are potential leaders, and who have an ability to both inspire and educate other young people within their local communities. The program has now been adopted nationally, with state club associations in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, ACT and South Australia all funding the cost of at least one young person to walk the Kokoda Track.
Look out for the Kokoda Challenge in 2010!