Last month OB alumnus and father of seven Ollie Seumanufagai joined 17 other cyclists to begin a bike ride from Bluff to Cape Reinga on the USO Bike Ride.
Rather than a fundraising ride, the aim of Ollie's ride was to raise awareness of Pacific Island and Maori men’s health issues in cities and towns en route.
USO is a commonly used Samoan word meaning brother and can be used to refer to the bond of ‘brother to brother’ or ‘sister to sister’. The USO bike ride project was established in 2011. On this ride workshops and seminars were organised at each stop to promote health and wellbeing.
“Pacific Island and Maori are over-represented in the statistics for obesity, stroke and diabetes. We need to raise awareness of these health issues and encourage men to take care of themselves,” says Ollie.
When he departed from Bluff, there was a special friend of Ollie’s in the crowd cheering him on. “One of the friends I made at Outward Bound five years ago was there. The friendships I made while I was at Anakiwa were definitely a highlight and have endured.”
Ollie was in his early 20s when he first heard about Outward Bound. “Family members had attended and loved it. The challenges, the activities - I always knew I’d like to go there.” Twenty years later he found himself in Anakiwa on an eight day Discovery Masters Course. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing to get to Outward Bound, as Ollie explains.
“I was overweight and unfit when I applied to go to Outward Bound, and I had to make a commitment to lose weight to ensure I would be able to participate in the activities. Each month in the lead up to the course I had to get weighed by a nurse and report into Outward Bound until I reached a safe weight.”
Overcoming barriers has been a common thread through Ollie’s life. “I had limited myself in terms of what I thought I could do. I thought I was too old, too fat, too lazy to achieve my dreams. It was important to break through those mental, physical and emotional barriers and Outward Bound gave me the space and the right environment to do that. As a result I came away fitter and stronger than ever.”
The physical challenges and activities Ollie experienced at Outward Bound have also resonated for him in his work.
As the manager of The Salvation Army’s Newtown Community Ministries overseeing its social services, Ollie feels he can “give more” to the people he works with in his diverse role. “There is so much need and I feel I have the mental and physical toughness to keep going,” he says.
The skills Ollie gained at Outward Bound were much-needed during the bike ride. Covering 140km to 160km each day, Ollie says mental toughness was really important. “Riders need commitment and training. I’m not the fastest, but I’m consistent and never give up."