Actively bridging the sporting divide
ActivAsian, a programme run by Harbour Sport on Auckland’s North Shore, is working to make sport and recreation a part of more New Zealander’s lives.
Different countries have varying customs when it comes to playing sport, says Sport Capability Project Manager Jenny Lim of Harbour Sport.
She discovered this personally when, as a teenager, she and her family moved from Malaysia to Auckland’s North Shore. In Malaysia sport was about kick-around games of football at the local park, or turning up at the local badminton hall with some friends to rent a court.
In New Zealand there were trials to see which players would qualify for which teams, and regular practices and scheduled matches. There were clubs and membership subscriptions. There were winter and summer sports seasons.
In Malaysia we have wet and dry seasons, not summer and winter.
It was all very different. “I can completely understand why Asian migrants don’t play sports here,” she says.
There are other reasons why sport isn’t popular too, she says. Often people move to New Zealand to help their children succeed at school or university, and any time left over after study is usually spent on ‘useful’ skills, such as learning the piano.
Then there is the risk of injury. While many Kiwi parents accept that bumps and bruises are part of growing up, not everyone sees things this way.
Perhaps because of reasons like these, surveys have shown that Asian New Zealanders are less physically active than the general population. This is unfortunate.
Health professionals have found that leading an active lifestyle is a good way of avoiding diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Educators point out that sport and exercise are good for building concentration, memory and social skills. Active students feel better, show more confidence, make friends more easily and are better behaved.
We also know taking part in recreation and sport is a great way for newcomers to meet people and become part of the community.
Early in the 2000s, many North Shore locals could see that their community was changing. By the time of the 2006 census, around one in five of the local population were Asian New Zealanders. They attended the same schools and universities, shopped at the same shops. What they did not seem to be doing – with some notable exceptions – was taking part in mainstream sports.
So in 2009, Harbour Sport launched their ActivAsian programme as a way of bringing benefits of recreation and sport to everyone.
Jenny Lim, a new Auckland Bachelor of Science graduate, took up the management of ActivAsian a month after its launch. She is well qualified: her major was in sport and exercise science and she is fluent in English and Mandarin.
Today, ActivAsian works closely with the North Shore’s Chinese, Korean and Filipino communities.
The ActivAsian programme has helped local sports bodies work out how to go about attracting more New Zealand Asians as members. It has also helped link up Asian communities with regional sports bodies. One result is that the Northern Football Federation is now helping to run football leagues for the Chinese and Korean communities.
To find out more about ActivAsian, visit the Harbour Sport website.