A top young sportsman from South Auckland is planning to use his University of Waikato degree to give back to his community.
Saynarvat Srisawat’s father is from Thailand and his mother a refugee who escaped war-torn Laos. He was head boy at Otahuhu College in 2014, a high academic achiever, and sportsperson of the year. His success and leadership skills helped him gain a first-in-family scholarship to Waikato, where he’s now graduating with a Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance.
Saynarvat says gaining his degree has been a huge learning curve, and his first year at Waikato was one of the most challenging in his life. He came to study and play rugby, but was shy and kept to himself. He suffered an injury that took him off the field. He even failed a course, which was an experience he'd never had before.
He believes perseverance and determination got him through. Saynarvat used his time off the field to focus on study and his degree, and he's now back playing, this time for the Waikato Sevens. “Through university I’ve become more confident, and learnt a lot about finding balance and prioritising things," he says.
The Rugby sevens finishes in January, and after that Saynarvat plans to go to his mother’s home country, Laos, to play with their national team. The sport is small there but he hopes to contribute to its growth, and he has ambitions for his own home town in New Zealand. He wants to open a gym. The community has high rates of obesity and health problems like diabetes so Saynarvat wants to tune it into fitness and healthy living. “I want to start with my family, then my extended family, then hopefully get the message about exercise out into the wider community."
Saynarvat says in South Auckland a lot of families struggle financially and kids are labelled as less likely to succeed. "They should never accept the criticism and stereotypes - they really can make it."