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Footballer Raphael Le'ai joins campaign to inspire youth

Posted on October 14, 2020 at 08:00 AM in Solomon Islands Tourism

Football star and Henderson Eels striker Raphael Le’ai is the latest high profile, young Solomon Islander inspiring more Solomon Islands youth to learn to scuba dive.

Acknowledged as the country’s most promising young footballer and a rising star in Oceania, Le’ai has already represented Solomon Islands internationally including the 2019 U-17 Minsk Tournament and the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Now he has joined the “Learn to Dive” campaign as a youth ambassador, alongside the current Miss Solomon Islands, Gladys Habu.

The programme, launched in August, is supported by Dive Munda, Agnes Gateway Hotel, Solomon Airlines and a host of private and business sponsors, and offers sponsored 3-day open water diving training to eligible participants aged between 10 and 21 years old.

Raphael Le’ai said he is proud and excited to represent the cause and looking forward to gaining his certification and to meet other dive trainees.

“With football, I have now travelled to other countries for matches, so I have started to see the world, which has taught me to appreciate even more what we have here at home,” he said.

“I’m keen to explore and learn more about our oceans and encourage others to do the same, so that we can protect what we have here in the Solomon Islands,” he added.

“We free dive here but many don’t realise that scuba diving is also a sport. Just like football it takes good training, working with other divers and self-discipline to really become skilled.

“Getting diving qualification, also requires training, knowledge and understanding of the rules and is something you can be proud of. It means you can dive safely but can also lead our youth to new paths, such as work in the dive industry or in tourism in years to come” he said.

“Through playing football, there are things I want to accomplish.  To represent our country and fly our country’s flag, good sportsmanship, to show others the good spirit of playing soccer and I want to become a good role model for our youths.

Belinda Botha, Operations Director for Dive Munda said the campaign partners were thrilled that Raphael Le’ai had enthusiastically joined the effort to learn to dive and to encourage more youth to do the same.

“It’s so great that Raphael is leading by example, swapping his football boots for fins for a short time, to inspire more young people in Solomon Islands.” she said.

Colin Sigimanu, Manager Commercial for Solomon Airlines agreed.

“Having Raphael and Gladys stepping forward confidently to also learn to dive is a great example for our youth,” he said.

“We welcome more willing sponsors to come onboard and encourage parents and our youth 21 and under to look closely at this excellent opportunity before all places fill up,” he said.

Youth who are interested in learning to dive under the sponsored programme, should contact [email protected] as soon as possible. Applications must include the candidate’s name, age, location, and background information as to why they wish to learn to dive. Parental agreement and medical clearance will also be required and candidates need to be able to read English.

Once registrations are received, Dive Munda facilitates the process with a panel including representatives from the industry who assess and select the successful candidates.

Successful candidates must make their own way to Munda to undertake the courses.

Under the programme, by the end of 2020, approximately 80 young Solomon Islanders will be qualified and certified as open water scuba divers.

Agnes Gateway Hotel and Solomon Airlines have also created affordable packages for youth and their families to travel to Munda valid for stays until 15 December, at 30% off the usual airfare and accommodation rates.

The discounted airfares are available from Honiara and Gizo to Munda, exclusively for those participating in the ‘Learn to Dive’ sponsorship and for those accompanying them.

Solo Diver packages for those aged 16-21 years, start from just SBD$2300 ex Munda, SBD$3936 ex Gizo or SBD$4714 ex Honiara, including accommodation and the dive course. Special twin share packages are also available for accompanying adults of younger divers.

More information on the ‘Learn to Dive’ special packages here

Photo Credit: OFC Media - Shane Wenzlick - www.phototek.nz

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