AS an AFL SportsReady trainee at the West Australian Football Commission, Bella Ndayikeze has played a key role in community engagement programs with her infectious enthusiasm.
Originally from Burundi in Africa, Bella spent time in refugee camps before arriving in Australia as a seven-year-old.
Her first experience with Australian Rules football was through the Edmund Rice Centre, where she embraced the opportunity to play Australia’s game and is now a member of the centre’s Youth Leadership group. She has also coached multicultural teams and plays community football with West Perth’s women’s team.
Her leadership and can-do attitude led to a traineeship opportunity through AFL SportsReady at the West Australian Football Commission, where her hard work and commitment paid off last week with AFL SportsReady’s 2015 WA Trainee of the Year Award.
Bella said it was a great feeling to be recognised for her passion and inspiring her peers, but that the greatest reward was seeing players progress through the ranks and breaking down cultural barriers.
“I am very happy with what I’ve done so far with a lot of young people in my community. It’s very good to see a lot of them move from community football to WAFL. As a 15 year old having coached those boys, it gives you a sense of pride for the great work you’re doing.
“Australian Rules football and the things I do for the community for the West Australian Football Commission, as well as the Edmund Rice Centre, help me with my everyday life, how I interact with people and how I present myself. Over the years I’ve received a lot of support from the Game Development team at the WAFC.
“I’ve broken down so many cultural barriers that playing sport or coaching, or doing anything good in the community isn’t much of a problem.
“I’ve always had people skills, but I just needed some opportunities to practice the skills. Usually if a young person is capable of something big, and can’t be granted some opportunities, there life becomes less meaningful because no one gives them guidance.
“Having opportunities through AFL SportsReady and the WAFC to do so many things, and to have Paul Mugambwa mentor me in the process, has very much helped me grow into a fantastic leader in my community.
“The best part of being a trainee is actually growing a lot more knowledge as well as hands on experience, and having someone to speak to. I remember Colin West, who is now finished with AFL SportsReady, visiting me in school, which was a good sign of support.
“Jayden D’Vauz won the same award in 2013 and having worked in the same field as him, for me that’s history in the making because it means we are doing something inspiring in the community to both be recognised,” she said.