A group of young aspiring leaders from the clubs industry has just returned from the adventure of a lifetime, after being selected to take part in the RSL and Services Club Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge.
From 5-16 August 2019, they embarked on a tough 10-day trek along the original Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, which provided them with a practical leadership experience based on the achievements and sacrifice of our diggers during World War 2.
Bankstown Sports Recruitment Coordinator Natalie Tanevski was among the group, fulfilling a dream she has had since childhood.
Under the guidance of war veteran Charlie Lynn, who has led 98 expeditions across the Kokoda Trail over the past 28 years, Natalie says it was incredible to walk through the unique jungle environment and learn about the local people and culture.
“I have always had a strong interest in Australian history and it has always been a personal goal of mine to walk Kokoda. When I received the news that I had been selected for the trip, I was excited but nervous at the same time, knowing that this adventure was something way outside my comfort zone”.
“No two days were the same over the 10 days. From the 4.30am bugle alarms to Charlie’s infamous Kokoda playlist, to dealing with the rain and humidity, and having to put on wet socks and muddy boots each morning. You quickly realise how hard it must have been for our soldiers and it makes you so grateful for the life we have in Australia because of them”.
Natalie says the physical side of the trek was just as challenging as the emotional and mental side of things and admits that despite all the training she did in the months leading up to the trip, it was still much harder than she anticipated.
“I was completely exhausted at the end of each day and my whole body was in constant pain from sore muscles and cramping. But thinking back to how difficult it must have been for our soldiers during the war, but I just kept reminding myself how much harder it would have been for our soldiers, and it really put things into perspective”.
“I think being a part of such a grueling physical challenge really brought us closer together as a group. None of us knew each other when we first arrived but after a couple of hours, we were helping each other up mountains and across rivers, with constant words of encouragement. We have all definitely developed friendships for life”.
Natalie says the trip was life-changing for her and is one of her proudest achievements. She says she has become a more resilient and confident person as a result of the experience, and now wants to inspire others to step outside their comfort zones to tackle big challenges in their lives.
Natalie’s trip with The Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge was funded by the ClubsNSW Western Metropolitan Region, with a contribution from Bankstown Sports Club for out-of-pocket expenses such as hiking equipment and other necessities.
“I really want to thank the RSL and Services Club, ClubsNSW and Bankstown Sports for their support. Without their contributions, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this journey, and I feel very humbled to have been given such an amazing opportunity”.