November is NZ Diabetes Action Month, and former Warriors and Kiwis player Ruben Wiki has run a fitness session in Mangere for tamariki to help spread awareness. It’s all a part of Sneaker Friday which encourages tamariki to wear their sneakers and promote physical well-being.
And physical exercise alongside one of rugby league’s stars is putting smiles on these children’s faces,
“It’s a very important message we have to get across to our people. My wife and I have created a gym in Otara, Wiki Works Fitness, so we’re just trying to give back to our people through being active. So as long as they can get that through to schools and workplaces, that movement is important, it’s push and play, we’re going to be okay. And change the stats,” Wiki says.
Diabetes is a growing epidemic amongst Māori and Pasifika communities, with, for example, 7% of people in the Counties Manukau district living with the disease. Wiki says preventing children from getting it is the main focus for him.
“Just make sure the awareness is right about movement, and just getting out there and moving for five to 10 minutes a day,” he says.
Today Wiki and a few of the Warriors gathered in Māngere to run a fitness session, and Diabetes NZ chief executive Heather Verry says Wiki’s presence made him the absolute star of the day.
“We just love people like Ruben to continue to support the cause and provide opportunities for us to come into a school like this and have a fun day and bring the foundation with us,” she says.
“I think just giving them options around the tucker side of things and just making it fun, you’ve got to make it fun. Exercise doesn’t have to be a hard task,” Wiki says.
Sneaker Friday has been operating in the community and nationwide for three years, serving to shed light on diabetes to children, in a fun and inclusive way.
“We want to prevent them from getting diabetes at an early age. The earlier they get it, the more chances of the complications that come with it, and we don’t want to see them getting kidney disease, and blindness and all of that. So if we can keep the children moving and understand how important food is, the right food. It’s fantastic,” Verry says.