South Sydney Rabbitohs first-grader Tulsa Saumanao is a fitness trainer for the Marrickville Souths Breakfast Club, a program that is helping disadvantaged youth in South Marrickville.
A joint venture by Marrickville Council, Rabbitohs NRL ‘South Cares’ program and other partners, the program consists of three under-20s Rabbitohs players training kids at the local PCYC.
Mr Saumanao is an 18-year-old from New Zealand, who trains with the Rabbitohs first grade team and attends TAFE. He is a natural teacher and exhibits a great rapport with the kids.
“I thought it was going to be hard. I thought they wouldn’t listen to me but it’s better than I thought,” Mr Saumanao said.
“When I was a kid I was really shy but now sport has helped me to be more out there. I know what it’s like to be a shy kid.”
The program allows Mr Saumanao to help disadvantaged students, which is an opportunity for him to take a step in the direction of his goal to become a social worker.
“I wanted to get involved because I wanted to give back to the community and I told people I want to be a social worker,” Mr Saumanao said.
“They choose people but I sort of put my hand up to do it. I want to work with kids like these.”
The program targets children through to young adults from the South Marrickville area, like 8-year-old Arthur Walford and his 10-year-old sister Deborah.
“I like that we play touch football,” Arthur said, before running back to join the game.
Tanika Perry South Cares’ Indigenous Community Support Officer, said the program provides a healthy start to the day and has a beneficial social inclusion element.
“We come here at six thirty and the kids get involved in different activities. At the end of it PCYC put on a breakfast for the kids and then they get a lift to school,” Ms Perry said.
“A few of the kids here don’t go to school much. We’re making sure that we, as the Rabbitohs, push the message that school is important.”
Ms Perry said the Marrickville Souths Breakfast Club is part of Dream, Believe, Achieve an initiative by South Cares, which seeks to help local disadvantaged youth with health, truancy and unemployment issues.
“I always say, we’re the vehicle to help them along their journey. Then it’s up to them.”
Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen along with Rabbitohs player Rhys Wesser launched the ten-week program that began February 4.
Ms Haylen said the South Marrickville community would benefit from the program and praised Central Sydney GP Network for the funding they provided.
“We know lots of the kids in South Marrickville do it pretty tough and this means we’re tackling problems like bad school attendance and unhealthy lifestyle habits,” she said.
“Particularly we should thank the Central Sydney GP Network. They’re a bunch of local GPs and they’ve given us over $13,000 to pay for the food.”
Evonne Loukas Marrickville High School learning and support teacher, said the program is important because it targets aspects of students’ lives that schools can’t regulate.
“In terms of success at school it has to incorporate a lot of factors out of schools’ controls in terms of sleeping well, exercise and having good food,” Ms Loukas said.