John from Fair Game Australia devotes his time and energy to making A meaningful impact in the lives of under-serviced Australians. HE HAS A HEALTHY passion FOR HELPing others (and the environment) to thrive, as he strives to do so himself. Giving back is one of JOHN’s top priorities. He says “if I had a time machine, I would invent a 25th hour for us all to dedicate entirely to helping others.” For now, simply start where you can with what you have.
Meet John from Fair Game Australia …
JOHN, WHAT'S THE IDEA BEHIND FAIR GAME?
Our idea is that by providing recycled sports equipment as the vehicle for healthy lifestyle choices we will reduce the burden of chronic and communicable diseases in underserviced Australian communities.
Fair Game was founded in late 2010 after I began working as a medical intern in the Port Hedland Hospital, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. I treated so many young patients with preventable lifestyle-related illnesses and became ashamed that Australia had let the health of its rural and remote citizens deteriorate. Watching a young child kicking rubbish around the front of the Emergency Department (ED), instead of a football, I realised that health inequality was preventable, unfair and systematic.
After this moment I got together with a few friends and we began recycling equipment to donate to under-serviced Australians in urban and rural areas. After piloting regional trips we realised there was a huge need for young, passionate volunteers assisting running sport, fitness and wellness programs in remote communities. From here the Fair Game vision for a ‘Fit and Healthy Australia’ was born. We play accessible team-based sessions that build the confidence and skills of children aged 5 through 15 years. We integrate healthy messages into the games that demonstrate practical, everyday approaches to hand hygiene, nutrition and ear health.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY, HOW DOES YOUR PASSION DRIVE YOU TO HELP OTHERS?
My journey started when I was five years old. I opened a ‘rock museum’ after starting a collection of rocks from a camping trip with my brothers. As my friends and family admired the various shades of brown in this museum I got a sense of excitement seeing their reactions. From this day I knew I drew energy from being around other people and challenging their perceptions and attitudes of local issues.
I continued my passion for a range of issues through school and university whilst traveling the world and instructing community fitness classes. I have been fortunate enough to live and work in Timor Leste and Tajikistan and have travelled to many more places.
In 2007, a friend and I held Australia’s first ‘Red Party’ to raise awareness and funds for HIV orphans in South Africa. These events continue to be held in universities across the country.
The most rewarding experiences of my life are when I see my projects encouraging others question the status quo of important societal issues and carving positive change. I believe this deep connection to change is the foundation underlying my passion, motivation and drive. If I had a time machine, I would invent a 25th hour for us all to dedicate entirely to helping others. By giving selflessly we gain meaningful connections with ourselves.
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF INSPIRATION?
I am inspired the most by the wonderful, happy and creative paediatric patients I treat in the hospital! I love seeing young people from diverse backgrounds kicking goals and dreaming big. Although I might only meet them and their families briefly, they are my biggest inspiration and the positivity I have for their future makes me giddy sometimes.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE FOR PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE TO THRIVE IN THEIR HEALTH, THOUGHTS AND OVERALL WELLBEING?
In today’s world it is hard to maintain physical and mental health. I see a lot of people going through tough times trying to find balance in their lives. It must be really hard for anyone living with a chronic illness, but the great news is that we have more knowledge and alternatives to help than ever before. I would suggest finding a health practitioner who you align with and understands your needs. I have patients who still maintain a therapeutic relationship with practitioners working in other cities via videoconferencing. We use teleheath a lot in remote areas and it gives us the ability to achieve continuity of care.
Before making an appointment consider undertaking an internal narrative writing down your goals, challenges and feelings. It can be useful keeping a diary of your interactions with others and yourself including any physical symptoms experienced. In my experience with patients suffering from the early stages of mental health concerns have small changes in sleep, energy, motivation and their senses. By completing online or in-person psychotherapy you can prevent things deteriorating and build strategies to restore your resilience to the challenges life may present to us. Always seek help if you are feeling hopeless or have any emergency concerns.
WHEN YOU ARE CONSTANTLY ON THE RUN, HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO ENSURE YOU ARE THRIVING?
To thrive in today’s hectic world of instant gratification I believe we need to approach life like a ‘pie graph’. We’ve only got so much time and need to play a multitude of different roles. How we apportion our time is up to us and needs to be actively managed. If we dedicate too much to one piece of the pie, the other pieces shrink.
One crucial element is finding the non-negotiable aspects of your particular situation that allow you to be happy and in control, despite how chaotic your calendar might appear. Work as hard as you can to keep a big slice of pie for these crucial tasks. For me, exercise is a number one priority as without it I’ve learnt that I lack energy and positivity. I regularly do a mental weekly forecast and ensure there are sufficient exercise sessions built into my schedule.
I rebalance commitments to ensure I can find at least 150 minutes per week, the medical literature and WHO report this as the minimum amount of activity humans should be undertaking. Even if just a small circuit in my lounge room, this allows me to maintain more efficient focus on the other slices of the pie.
Working fulltime whilst running a charity, seeing family and staying socially active can be tough! I think I’ve been reasonably successful so far but wish to rediscover some activities I get pleasure from like hiking, community sport and spending more incidental time with friends in the second half of this year.
WHICH LOCAL BUSINESSES OR ORGANISATIONS HAS FAIRGAME COLLABORATED WITH AND WHY?
Fair Game only works in partnership with communities and other organisations. We are a service delivery charity using volunteers to make a huge impact for other people. We make sure all our participants receive healthy community packs with hygiene products once per year to facilitate handwashing and basic first aid. We have some awesome pro-bono support from Avis, CTI logistics and BDO.
We work across the entire state of Western Australia and also in New South Wales. After eight years of operations is has become clear to me that every local area has entirely different needs. As such we rely on strong and meaningful partnerships to know how, where and when we can best help out.
One partnership I love is with the Strelley Community School and IBN Aboriginal Corporation in the Pilbara. Together we produced Australia’s first Aboriginal yoga program which tells the story of a child going walkabout and meeting a series of animals who are depicted in yoga poses in a flip-book. Year five students draw illustrations of animals and then we turn them into a narrative translating them into three highly endangered Pilbara languages.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE SUSTAINABILITY ELEMENT OF FAIR GAME?
Sustainability is one of Fair Game’s four key organisation values, it is incredibly important to us. We have recycled hundreds of cubic metres of sports equipment which would otherwise have been destined for landfill. I believe we are only just beginning to realise the harmful effects of plastics on our ecosystems. A large amount of sports apparel and equipment are comprised of a variety of plastics, which are a byproduct of the petroleum industry. We hope that people will think of donating their pre-loved soccer balls, boots and footballs to us instead of throwing them away.
HOW IS FAIR GAME MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE?
Each year we contribute over $250,000 volunteer-hours to under-serviced communities across Australia in addition to the donation of over 30,000 items of equipment since 2010. We’ve seen children participating in our holiday programs who are now young adults and still engaged in their community and playing sport regularly. When we see their smiles we know we are achieving our mission.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO BEST GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY?
I would suggest finding a cause you are passionate about and then setting yourself a realistic target of what you can do to contribute towards it. Starting a movement is incredibly difficult and requires at least five years of commitment so I would suggest searching for an existing group to join. It is important to evaluate any charity you might wish to join to see if it is a suitable match. Ask yourself what the culture is like at the organisation? Are most people happy and do they enjoy their work? In addition, do some reading of the annual reports of prospective charities and ensure that you do not feel there are conflicts of interest from their funding base and that they are spending their money on what they claim to be.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR FAIR GAME?
We are proud to be piloting an outcomes-based approach this year with the intent of measuring our impact on some core dimensions of health behaviour.
We’re also running our volunteer training twice yearly in Sydney, Perth, Armidale (NSW) and Port Hedland so those who are interested can sign up here.
Fair Game’s unique Indigenous yoga program uses story telling to make yoga accessible to children and is based on the story of an Indigenous boy walking through the outback with the poses being the animals he meets along the way. Key words are translated into the local Aboriginal dialect and a teaching resource book has been created which can remain in communities to be used all year round.
The success of this program was the genesis for Fair Game’s forthcoming mega yoga fundraising event Wellness Walkabout which will take place on the field at OPTUS STADIUM on the afternoon of SATURDAY 6TH OCTOBER, 2018.
The event is shaping up to be the ultimate feel good Saturday afternoon. Fair Game hope to set a record for the largest yoga class in Australia at this event where 4 of Perth’s most inspirational yoga teachers will lead the crowd in flow yoga to some cool beats from Perth’s hottest DJ - DJShann creating some incredible energy. Participants will create some great karma too as 95% of each ticket purchased will directly support Fair Game’s delivery of health and fitness programs to remote and under-serviced communities. A Health and Wellness Expo will also run alongside the event.
Follow John's Journey: