Locals part of 25 Australians to take on the Kokoda Track to raise funds and awareness for the 10,000 Toes Campaign to tackle diabetes

ICONIC WALK: Dr Brad Watson and his son Zac in the grounds of Avondale College of Higher Education, at Cooranbong, ahead of their Kokoda journey. Picture: David Stewart

ICONIC WALK: Dr Brad Watson and his son Zac in the grounds of Avondale College of Higher Education, at Cooranbong, ahead of their Kokoda journey. Picture: David Stewart

TEN rugby league balls will be among the unlikely items in the luggage of a group of 25 Australians who will walk the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea for charity from Monday.

Dr Brad Watson, a lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education, in Cooranbong, and his son Zac, 17, will be among the walkers.

The group is taking on the track to raise awareness and funds for the 10,000 Toes Campaign, an initiative that aims to stamp out diabetes in the South Pacific.

It will be hard work for a serious cause, but the group hopes to have some fun with the locals who are renowned for their love of all things rugby league.

"So one of the guys is taking 10 footballs he got from Bunnings," Zac said.

Dr Watson and Zac each hope to raise $1500 for the 10,000 Toes Campaign.

They said 100 per cent of the tax-deductible donations they received would go to the project.

The pair is self-funding the cost of airfares, travel expenses, a porter in PNG, and trekking gear.

"We've been encouraged to hire a local porter for $600, which is more than a year's salary," Dr Watson said.

The father and son have been training for the trek for more than three months. Dr Watson lived in PNG in 1990. Picture: David Stewart

The father and son have been training for the trek for more than three months. Dr Watson lived in PNG in 1990. Picture: David Stewart

Zac said he left school at the end of year 10, so tackling the Kokoda Track with his father was the equivalent of his year 12 schoolies.

"I really wanted to blend a father-son adventure with a good cause," he said.

Zac is studying outdoor education and primary teaching at the college.

The 10,000 Toes Campaign was launched in response to data that showed type 2 diabetes had reached epidemic levels in the South Pacific, affecting one in four people in the Pacific islands, a spokesperson for the campaign said.

Many others are living with the disease but are undiagnosed.

"In American Samoa, almost 50 per cent of the population has type 2 diabetes. Similarly, Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world," the spokesperson said.

"The impact is shocking. Diabetes is associated with many serious complications affecting the feet, eyes, kidneys and heart.

"It's the leading cause of amputations in the South Pacific - 560 amputations are performed weekly. That's more than 80 amputations every day, or one every 20 minutes."

The 10,000 Toes Campaign has three key strategies:

  • Recognising that early detection is vital, it aims to provide testing kits to communities so that diabetes can be detected and treatment started promptly.
  • An education campaign for Pacific islanders will promote the benefits of healthy living, including nutrition, exercise, good sleep, hygiene and fresh air.
  • Local health professionals will be upskilled to diagnose and treat type 2 diabetes early and better manage the complications.

The trek is a joint initiative of Adventist Health and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia.

Another Cooranbong resident, Paul Rubessa, who is the CEO of the humanitarian agency ADRA Australia, will also take part in the Kokoda Track walk.

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