Love beyond the Track
It was love at first hike for couple Jessica Phillips and Michael Henderson who have now been together for just over eight years. Meeting in the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program in 2011 as part of the Gold Coast North team, the pair quickly hit it off. Both attending Helensvale State High School, Jess and Michael knew of each other but weren’t in the same friendship groups or classes.
“If it weren’t for the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program, we would have never met each other”. – Jessica Phillips
At the beginning of their relationship the couple were still in the 14 month KCYP program and relationships were not part of the experience. When their relationship became public, their families asked them “Why now? Can’t you want until you’ve finished?”. Whilst they remained loyal to their team and program the bond they shared was unbreakable and they just couldn’t wait to be together.
While walking the Kokoda Challenge in 2011 the Gold Coast North group adopted a participant named Dick who had lost the rest of his team and joined them for the walk. Dick became a friend of the Gold Coast North group and went on to give Michael his first apprenticeship in Carpentry. Now fully qualified, Michael often works away anywhere from 1-10 weeks at a time in North Queensland, New Zealand and now currently in Africa for his 3rd work trip.
“I think the biggest thing that has stuck with me from the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program would be Sacrifice. The Sacrifice our Australian troops made so we still have a safe and wonderful place to live is something I will always remember. I work away from home a lot, sometimes months at a time! I want to be home more with Jess but I know work is a part of life and the Sacrifice I have to make so we can have a safe, healthy and happy life together.”
– Michael Henderson
Since graduating high school the pair have been working hard to save and build their own home. In 2017, Jess and Michael moved into their home at only 20 (Jess) and 21 (Michael) years old. What an amazing accomplishment! Now at University, Jessica is studying to become a Primary School teacher and will be fully qualified in 2021, all while holding down a part-time job and teaching violin too.
“Overall I feel the Kokoda Challenge youth program has helped me to understand the importance of the small things in life and to overcome the big problems I may face along the way. I met so many great people and friends throughout the program including my fiancée Jess. I will carry many great experiences and memories from the program throughout the rest of my life.”
– Michael Henderson
After seven years together, Michael proposed to Jess while holidaying in Sydney. The couple have enjoyed many trips together over the years travelling to Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Following their wedding set within the Tamborine Mountain Gardens next October, Jessica and Michael are looking forward to spending their honeymoon in Canada. We wish Jessica and Michael every happiness in their future together, and are happy to have been an integral part in their life story.