Local Student’s Journey to Kokoda


Local student David Eskander is preparing for a once in a lifetime experience, having been selected to take part in the 2023 Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge this year.

David, who turns 18 this month, will represent Penrith RSL and his Australian Army Cadet Unit 21ACU in the Challenge, which will see him travel to Papua New Guinea, trekking across the Kokoda Trail from 23rd September to 4th October, during the school holidays.

He was initially nominated by his Cadet Captain, Captain Kilgour. Penrith RSL received multiple nominations from schools, Army, Air Force and Navy cadets. Nominees were asked to complete an application of interest, that included a 600 word essay. A small number of applicants were then invited for an interview with Penrith RSL COB (Chair of Board), Sub-Branch President and Vice President, before the selection was made.

“I was overjoyed to get the news that I was selected to be part of this Challenge” said David to the Emu and Leonay Gazette.

The 10 day trek will see David and his fellow participants cover 15 to 22kms a day across treacherous terrain that includes steep inclines, deep valleys, dense jungle, and rapid rivers. Along the way, they get to visit and learn the history of significant battle sites, and at the end of each day, discuss the main lessons learned from the site around the campfire.

In preparation for the trek, he has been hiking in the mountains with full gear to build endurance. Gym workouts and mental training also help with the hard challenge ahead.

“The Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity of trekking the Kokoda Trail. I’m looking forward to the chance to witness and experience the trail itself. I’ve always had a long-standing interest on the history of Australia’s Defence Force. The chance to trek through the same path that our veterans had gone through, and those who laid down their lives for our country, is an experience that I cannot put into words” he stated.

“I see this trek as a personal challenge to me. I firmly believe that the experience of trekking the Kokoda Trail would help me develop a new level of self-awareness, gratitude, mindfulness, discipline, and resilience that I can apply to all areas of my life” David continued.

David is thankful for the opportunity he has been given.

“A huge thank you to my Captain and my Cadet Unit 21ACU for my nomination, and Penrith RSL for selecting me out of all the applicants they received and to the amazing group of people who make the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge happen, the RSL & Services Clubs Association, and Adventure Kokoda that is run by Major Charlie Lynn” he ended.

You can follow David Eskander’s journey on Facebook by searching ‘Eskander – Kokoda LSC 2023’.

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