Cook Islands’ Tinomana Naea was recently crowned the first winner of Serve-ing Pacific, a volunteer recognition programme in the Oceania region.
A committee member and Shuttle Time Tutor for Badminton Cook Islands, Naea was nominated for excelling with ‘Inclusiveness’, one of five organisational values Badminton Oceania embeds across all programme areas.
Naea’s hard work, loyalty and determination have never faltered since joining the organisation over four years ago. His involvement has been pivotal to the delivery of Shuttle Time and badminton across primary and secondary school programmes and after school classes.
His extreme passion for the sport has seen him always going the extra mile to balance his personal and work life with helping schoolchildren learn and develop through badminton.
One key highlight of Naea’s time as a volunteer was the success of a student group from Avarua School. He has been guiding and teaching them Shuttle Time for the last two years and they consequently won the junior division of the annual college tournament in 2020.
“He is a very proud coach. He definitely claimed the bragging rights, but it goes to show, when you have great people supporting you and the dream, anything is possible,” says Badminton Cook Islands President Thomas Mereana-Ngauru.
“He has had my back since I became president and is extremely popular among the schools and their students in the Cook Islands. I know his story will inspire and encourage others to step up, lead and inspire through sport.”
While Naea’s list of motivations to volunteer was endless, some key factors include physical and mental health benefits, the ability to bring people together and helping children develop numerous skills.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing badminton grow on this island. There were so many who didn’t know it existed just a few years back – most only knew about rugby and netball. It’s great to see another sport taking off which they can get into. It’s opened up a lot of eyes, especially for the kids,” said Naea.
“I like helping people, helping kids and enhancing the awareness of badminton across the Cook Islands. For me, it’s all about seeing the children grow. They start off very young and you watch them grow and some of them go on to win, even at the National Championships, and it’s great to see them achieve so much.”
The next Serve-ing Pacific winner will be revealed in January.
** First published on Badminton Oceania website by Tom Leonard.