A few words and a big thank you regarding Kokoda.
In fact, words won’t capture my level of gratitude and appreciation for all each of you have done.

Jenny, thank you so much for being the inspiration for the participation of students from Surfcoast Secondary. Your organisation, motivation, communication and drive to make the Kokoda experience happen has been just brilliant for the group as a whole. The personal support you have provided Laila is amazing and I feel so lucky that my children attend a school where staff care so greatly. From picking up Laila for those early morning drives and walks, to having to trek back to meet her and miss time with the group, to just being an adult female role model she can talk to and connect with, you have impacted on Laila in just so many positive ways.

Peter, we sat and watched the video you created this morning and it was an emotional experience for all of us. Thank you so much for also giving up your time to support Jenny and the students and for taking the time to capture the experience so that family and friends can share just that little bit more closely. I honestly felt just that bit more secure about my daughter heading off to Papua New Guinea knowing you were there as well.

Scott, thank you for being a principal prepared to take a risk with the kinds of educational experiences offered to your students. As well as supporting the program at a leadership level, it was lovely to see the principal driving the bus load of excited (and apprehensive!) trekkers to Melbourne. Then, when Laila and I needed your support to obtain documents to assist her passage to Port Moresby, your instant offer of support and springing into action helped greatly when our stress levels were still huge.

Wayne, you have provided Laila with a gift that I have no doubt will play a role in shaping the rest of her life. Again, I can’t express my appreciation highly enough. For you to arrange the reversal of the walk was beyond anything I expected. The arrangements you then put in place for Laila to be collected individually, two days after the rest of the group, and to then escort her personally, whilst catching another group and eventually the Surfcoast group, demonstrated a level of flexibility and commitment to the care of your client that is of the highest order. I won’t go into the details, but I think if Laila had missed out on the trek, as looked likely to happen, then I think the short and long term damage to her self-esteem would have been immense. Laila mentioned how comfortable she felt in your company – whether you were both talking or whether you were just slogging it out in silence. She said there was a point when she felt absolutely out of her depth, exhausted, overwhelmed and full of self-doubt. The comfort you gave her, with your kind words, encouragement and compassion, was exactly what she needed at that moment. Thank you.

Thank you also to Lyn (our Kokoda Spirit contact person), who was so efficient in supporting me whilst we were madly trying to get arrangements in place and had so many questions for her. Her level of communication was excellent – right to the day of departure when I called her in desperation at about 6am. (An officious Qantas representative had met with us and declared, ‘there’s no way Laila is flying. She can’t get on the plane. They won’t even look at her in Port Moresby, as she doesn’t have a visa’. Thankfully, he was wrong.)

15 months or so ago, Laila snapped her cruciate ligament and her medial ligament. At that point in time, there is no way I thought she would be walking Kokoda just over a year down the track. Laila was inspired by you, Jenny, to undertake the journey. When she first came home to ask if she could go I was both proud of her for being so pro-active, but also nervous (would she recover from her knee injuries in time? was it safe in P.N.G.? did the transport plane have twin engines?!) There are so many aspects to the experience that challenged Laila. The early morning training sessions when she wanted to lay in bed, like teenagers do. The evening training sessions at Bird Rock stairs, when it was cold, wet and dark. Then, to have to deal with losing her passport and thinking she wasn’t going and to see the rest of the group depart without her. Then, to have to deal with the possibility that we should try to make arrangements for her to fly – but know that there were a huge number of ducks to line up and it may not happen. Then, to have to fly to Port Moresby alone (very much the unknown – which is so often what frightens us). Then, to have to make up time to catch the rest of the group.
Thank you, all, from the bottom of my heart.


Adrian Bassett