Adaptive Sports Coming to Nepal

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Throughout my time in India and Nepal many people said to me, “you should start an NGO”.  I’ve worked primarily in the NGO and public sectors my entire career.  I’ve always been able to become passionate about the mission of the NGOs that I’ve worked for.  This was the case although I might not have had previous experience in that specific sector.  An example of this was when in 1998 I became Executive Director of  the Alliance for Living working with people with HIV/AIDS.  When I went to India in March 2009 and started working for the Government and with NGOs working with people with developmental disabilities, experience that I lacked, I had little idea how much this would impact my life.  

Living in Tucson for the past seven months I’ve befriended a number of people, both able-bodied and with disability, who are very passionate about sports.  Although I moved to Tucson specifically to learn more about how to coach wheelchair basketball, this has broadened out through the soon to be establishment of the NGO-Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports (SAAS).  There are eight of us on the founding board of directors including one person who works at a corporate, Hangar Clinic. a business unit of Hanger, Inc., which specializes in orthotic and prosthetic services and products with one goal in mind: Empowering Human Potential.  One person works in Access and Disability Resources (ADR) at Pima Community College, another worked at the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at the University of Arizona while also being part of community wheelchair tennis.  Others play wheelchair basketball but have never been on a board of directors.  One person became involved due to her brother’s accident many years ago, resulting in him becoming quadriplegic but continuing his involvement in sports.

There are so many opportunities for SAAS to start and/or partner with others on a huge variety of sports.  Recently we met with a woman who is involved with para archery. The University of Arizona through the Disability Resource Center offers a wide variety of sports.   Wheelchair tennis is part of the International Tennis Federation and is  played in the community as well as at the University of Arizona.    A group of community members have started doing hand cycling on a regular basis.   There is also a Juniors Active in Wheelchair Sports (JAWS) program run by the University of Arizona.  This past year there were three wheelchair basketball teams in Tucson however this Fall there is the possibility of having up to six.  The opportunities, like the number of sports, seem endless.

The success of SAAS is dependent on developing partnerships as the Organization is going to need funding for a plethora of programs and also Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) in order to use facilities throughout Tucson.  The City of Tucson (local government) Parks and Recreation Department through its Therapeutic Recreation Program has already done quite a bit.  They have also provided gym space for the community wheelchair basketball team, the Tucson Lobos

The partnerships that are needed to be successful in the US are no different than those  in Nepal.  It is imperative to bring together organizations from the public and private sectors as well as the government.  Never mind the fact that there are two Paralympic committees. It’s going to take a much greater effort in Nepal to get more athletes to the Paralympic level.   The National Paralympic Committee homepage is out of date indicating to me that there is little interest/emphasis on sports for persons with disabilities.  But before one “runs, one has to walk”.

What would it take to bring together under an umbrella organization, those participating in wheelchair basketball, table tennis, swimming, etc. in Nepal, similar to the NGO that is being formed in Tucson?  This might take putting aside egos and thinking about the needs of persons with disabilities, i.e. creating a multitude of opportunities.  This will take cooperation from the corporate sector to help fund this effort, government to make facilities available with minimum hassle. (Private schools could also make courts available at little/no charge).  This type of effort requires a change in mindset from society realizing that this is for the greater good. Nothing is impossible; it just take a lot of will to do what makes sense for creating a more inclusive society.

                                                                                                                                                           

Position: Programme Manager

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