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The Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League, the premier wheelchair basketball competition in the country is now gearing towards the end with the finals scheduled for July 1st.

Started on May 27th, the competition with six male and four female teams participating, is only possible thanks to coalition of private, not for profit organizations, educational institutions and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, jointly coming together to create awareness about disability but also to help raise the standards of the wheelchair basketball, a game that is getting more and more popular all over the world.

Financial support is always indispensible and crucial but there are many other ways to get involved to create innovative partnerships.

Possibly the partnership approach underpinning the League, now on its second edition, could become a blueprint on how to promote similar events in future. Below some of its key elements:

Passionate CSR

Turkish Airlines, the title sponsor of the League, not only decided to support financially the competition but literally embraced its spirit, offering ideas, contacts and very much contributing in the rolling out the initiative. This was not only possible because Turkish Airlines has a strategic focus on sport events around the world but because the entire team at the Turkish Airlines office in Nepal showed great passion and interest for the cause of disability. A financial support in the form of grant had the magic to become a corporate employees volunteering program with the Turkish Airlines staff giving their best to make the event a real success.

Partnership with Schools

Without having a place to play or train, the League would not be possible. No team with the exception of one has its own place to play and practice. For example League’s games have been held at St. Javier College, the British School and Rato Bangala while in the past Campion Academy also offered a great level of support. The partnership with the schools is also important because a key element of the League is to create awareness about social inclusion and disability, something discussed in the next paragraph.

Inclusive Development

Sport for development is now recognized as an incredible tool to bring positive changes at social level. This is the reason why CBM and MSI, two well know INGOs have agreed to support the League. On the same line the support and involvement of the Embassy of Switzerland, one of the development partners more strongly focused on social inclusion, has been indispensible. Thanks to the partnership with Switzerland, the League players are having the opportunity to tour different schools to talk about disability and showcase their talents, helping students change their mindsets on disability.

Youth led volunteering

From corporate volunteering to a more traditional form of volunteering: the pillars of League are twenty five local youths, all students at college level who are taking care of all the logistics related to the games: from registration to security to first aid to food distribution just to mention few of the “functions” managed by the League’s volunteers. Divided in different groups, each of them with specific tasks and guided by their respective Team Leaders, the volunteers are literally making the League possible. Most of them are from the EMPOWERING Club of AIMS College, a joint initiative between AIMS College and ENGAGE, focused on promoting social inclusion and disability rights.

Similar clubs have been established with the same purpose at Caribbean School and Campion Academy whose members are also supporting the League.

Moreover the foundations of the League are based on the fifteen ENGAGE Sport Coaches who serve the League’s participating teams as coaches, all youths who love playing basketball and decide to invest their time on coaching.


This year there are also important partners like AYON, the biggest youths organization in the country, the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh’ s International Award, the most comprehensive personal development program for youths up to 24 years old and Lions International. The main contribution of these organizations is to promote and advertise the League’s games through their respective networks and connections. If we want to make wheelchair basketball as big as in some European countries where is played professionally, well more and more people needs to know how good it is.  

We need to demystify the myth about adaptive sports: people around the world do not watch them out of pity or compassion but because they are very competitive and have reached highest standards.

To give you just an idea on how strong the wheelchair basketball is becoming, few weeks ago almost four thousand people went to watch the finals of the Italian wheelchair basketball league where Briantea 84, a team based in Cantu, near Milan, triumphed.

Maybe some local corporates, still too hesitant about believing in an initiative like the League and not willing to watch the finals, should go on Youtube to see some real fun.

Corporates Involvement

It has not been easy to convince corporate partners but we were lucky to have the trust of Hero, Civil Bank, D Lifestyle, IME Group. Oftentimes corporates have the pressure to ensure a return on their CSR “investment”. It is great to know that there are some corporates which made bold decisions and think long term.

Organizing the League is not only about money. If you are for a nonprofit and you ask for support to the corporate, be creative while you do your pitching. If you are a corporate, please invest your time, you will find that out there are so many good initiatives worthy at least some attention. 

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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