Making children with disabilities physically stronger: Victor’s story




Victor Samuel is an 8 year old boy from the Cook Islands who has Cerebral Palsy. Victor has been involved with the OFC Just Play programme since February 2015 and when he first joined the programme he was unable to walk or stand unaided.

With Victor’s involvement in the Just Play programme along with the hard work and support of his teacher aide and community, Victor is now moving and walking around unaided.

Victor has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and he was unable to walk or speak. Before joining the Just Play programme, Victor showed interest in sport but was usually forced to watch from the side-lines. Victor attends  Takitumu Primary School in the Matavera district on the beautiful island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands. There are no special schools for children with disabilities in the Cook Islands; instead children with disabilities are integrated into the main school system. Teacher Aides become their one on one support for their development in and outside the classroom ensuring regular participation. Katreena Mataio is Victor’s hard working teacher aide.

Katreena participated in a Just Play teacher’s training course in February 2015 and began delivering Just Play sessions in her school along with Victor’s class. Disability Inclusion is one of the objectives of the programme and children with and without disabilities are encouraged to play together and respect one another. Children with both physical and mental disabilities are encouraged to be involved.

Katreena was determined to make a positive difference to Victor’s life and attending the Just Play course gave her a different set of tools to help with Victor’s development, which was supported and encouraged by the Just Play team. To encourage Victor to move and be physically active the school community provided him with an adapted walking frame. It was not easy for Victor but with this he was more mobile and the change happened slowly and surely with the catalyst of a positive environment.

Victor has become physically stronger through the continuous hard work and of his teacher aide Katreena, who is fully supported and encouraged by his family, the school and the Just Play team. Activities are adapted so that children with disabilities can participate with their peers and enjoy all the sessions.

Victor is now walking unaided and prefers not to use his walking aide even though his legs get tired often; he is gaining his strength every day. Now in Grade 5, Victor thrives on his inclusion and continues to gain strength through all the help he receives. With the huge contribution from Katreena and support from the Just Play team Victor’s development both inside and outside the classroom has been enormous. The school has a very positive environment where Victor is widely accepted and is able to participate as much as possible


Victor walking without assistance after being involved with Just Play for over a year