Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge

We are pleased to announce the safe return of staff members, Ping Sirisinvibul and Paolo Santiago, from Papua New Guinea after completing the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge. They represented the Club on an arduous 10 day trek across the Owen Stanley Ranges in the footsteps of our Diggers in August and we couldn’t be more proud of them. The KYLC is a peer group leadership program established in 2004 by Charlie Lynn, a Vietnam vet and former Liberal Party politician, and the RSL & Services Clubs Association. MRSL began its participation in 2005 with goals to create a greater awareness of the sacrifices the diggers endured on the Kokoda campaign among our youth to ensure their heroism and honour live on in our diverse Australian culture. It also helps to build leadership skills, personal development and encourages young achievers with natural leadership skills.

Below are some insights into Ping and Paolo’s experience.
What have you gained from this experience?

Paolo: I developed a deeper understanding of what makes a true leader and that is understanding your team first, including their background and why they do what they do. Once you have that understanding a true leader steps in to meet them half way. It’s the old advice to listen before speaking. That and integrity is what makes a true leader.

Ping: I learnt the true strength of my mind by pushing it to its limits. There were plenty of times onthe trek I just wanted to give up, but because I set my mind up to complete it, I pushed through to the end! I did not give up, I just kept going and going. Our trek leader, Charlie Lynn, would notice me struggling and say “Ping for the purpose, whatever Ping wants, whatever Ping thinks, Ping will do”. I hope to apply this in every aspect of my life by creating purpose and persevering to achieve it.
What was the highlight of your experience?

Paolo: Our trek leader, Charlie Lynn, would pause at significant locations to re-tell their stories and draw lessons and advice from each of them. These were my highlight. One that resonated with me was about how to make a good decision in your leadership roles to ensure a good future for our nation. And that is to always consider the Diggers. They laid their lives down for a better future for Australia, so any decision that would impact Australia should align with what the soldiers envisioned, fought for and paid the ultimate sacrifice for.

Ping: My highlight was the Dawn Service at Isurava Memorial. Since coming to Australia, I had never been to Dawn Service. My first Dawn service experience was at a historical and significant location and I’m so grateful for this. Isurava is the location of an important battle during the war and I had a profound experience as if the spirits of heroes surrounded me. I felt the respect from everyone during the service for the Diggers and Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
What was the most challenging?
Paolo: By day 8 of the trek I had swollen quad muscles in both legs that caused excruciating pain for me. My biggest challenge was to soldier on through the pain as there was no going back and I was determined to cross that finish line.

Ping: I overcame my fear of heights during the trek. There were narrow paths and cliffs all along the trek. Scenery of heights are beautiful but my hands and legs were shaking. I was under stressful, emotion and panic and no one surround me to help on that moment. I told myself that ‘do not look down, focus and be careful on steps, I can do it, It will pass soon’ and I did pass them.
Any finishing comments?
Paolo: The experience was so profound and wholesome that I would love to go back and do it again. It is the first time I felt a feeling of belonging with absolute strangers and it is this comradery and bond that I would go back for. Thank you Merrylands RSL Club for this experience.

Ping: Do not limit yourself. What you believe you can do, just do it and you will cross your limits, and that is unlimited. Thank you Merrylands RSL Club for giving me this opportunity.

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