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Maraia has been involved with Just Play since 2015, first as a volunteer and later as a full-time staff member / UNICEF

Football in Fiji

Maraia Waqairatavo is the western coordinator for the Just Play program in Fiji, which is delivered in partnership by Fiji Football Association, Football Australia and Oceania Football Confederation, supported by Team Up. 

The program provides a safe space for children to play, learn and grow through football.  Through the integration of social messages, the program also engages children in a series of interactive sessions, allowing them to explore a variety of key areas critical to their development.

“As the western coordinator for Just Play, my role involves the management and facilitation of Just Play and social responsibility activities on the western side of Fiji,” Maraia explains. 

“On a day-to-day basis I am responsible for the delivery of activities in my area, which includes supervising and training teachers and community volunteers, tracking expenditures, monitoring the program, writing reports and coordinating the delivery of festivals and other events. No two days are alike!" 

Maraia first joined Just Play as a volunteer in 2015, before becoming part of its emergency program in 2016, which was delivered in response to Tropical Cyclone Winston. In 2018 she was offered the opportunity to work as a full-time staff member with the social responsibility department at Fiji Football Association. 

“The most satisfying part about my role is the difference that I’m helping to make,” she says. “I enjoy interacting with children, especially during sessions and festivals. 

“I enjoy putting smiles on children’s faces and seeing how the program makes them happy. 

“Just Play is important because it guarantees a safe space for children to play and learn through organised football sessions. The program is also aimed at helping children and adolescents to make long-term healthy lifestyle choices. This will have a positive impact on them, their families and their communities. 

“From my experience, sport delivered with a life skills component builds stronger and healthier individuals, communities and nations. 

“Personally, being involved with the program has helped me to grow as a person. I have gained so much confidence and love advocating for gender equality through football. The program has motivated me to lead a healthier lifestyle and has made me conscious of my behaviour in public as a role model. 

“The program has also provided me with many opportunities. I have travelled around the Pacific and participated in the Pacific Women’s Sports Leadership Program as well as the FIFA Women’s Conference.

"Each experience has helped me broaden my perspective both personally and professionally.”

The Just Play program provides a safe space for children to play, learn and grow through football / UNICEF
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