The power of Inclusive Sport

Full Text Sharing


While most of the people affected by the earthquakes are still waiting for the financial help pledged by the Government to partially help them with the reconstruction of their houses, no initiative has been taken so far to assist and provide relief to those persons who got injured during the earthquakes and now are living with disabilities.

I am referring here to designing and delivering a comprehensive support package that not only offers physical rehabilitation but also psychological counseling coupled with an adequate financial compensation and self employment training programs.

Certainly many institutions like the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Center is doing a superlative job in assisting the physical and also mental recovery of the victims but this is not enough.

We need a much stronger approach to deal with those who became physically disable during the quakes and this should lead to a complete overhaul and rethinking of the welfare benefits for persons living with disabilities in the country.

If physical rehabilitation is properly followed by psychosocial counseling, a victim of the earthquakes who now lives with disabilities can find a new purpose in life. Sport playing can surely help in that quest.

Sport for development and peace is a relatively new discipline within the social sector, a niche actually that still has huge untapped potential.

While the benefits of practicing sports are universal and well known, still few understand the transformative power of sport playing not only for the victims of the quakes but also for the many victims of road accidents who were forced on a wheelchair because an injury to their spinal cord.

You can also think of Nepal Army Major Pawan Ghimire, Founder and President of the Cricket Association of Blinds, whose life was literally transformed after a mine exploded during the civil conflict.

After becoming visual impaired, Pawan turned himself into a disability activist and a pioneer in disability sports in Nepal.

Recently returned from one month training in the United States thanks to an admirable and farsighted exchange program funded by the American State Department, now Pawan, together with ENGAGE and Nepal Spinal Cord Injury Sport Association, wants to set up a disability sports network, a key launchpad to promote and scale inclusive sport practices in Nepal.

The Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League, the first ever long term inclusive sport championship in the country, could be another major game changer.

The League is about developing competitive inclusive sports so that one day Nepal would boost a strong Paralympics team. It is also about giving a new message about disabilities.

As a major cross partnership initiative, co-convened by the Ministry of Youths and Sport with the involvement of many private corporate players and individuals from all over the world, the League can set an example on future collaborations in the social sector.

Thanks to the support of the Embassy of Switzerland, also a strategic partner to the League, ENGAGE will organize awareness programs in different collages of the Valley inviting the League’s heroes, the players from all the participating teams, to talk about how sports playing changed for better their lives.

With proper “infrastructures” like extensive coaching supporting programs in different sports disciplines, a strong network of organization promoting inclusive sports and the due support from the Nepal Sport Council, Nepal can become a global champion in inclusive sport practices.

Having Turkish Airlines, one of the biggest airlines worldwide as title sponsor of the ENGAGE Empowering League, will certainly promote Nepal as a “trailblazer” in inclusive development.

The League is just the start of a journey. We can organize semi professional disability sports leagues not only in wheelchair basketball but also in cricket and football and other disciplines, attracting masses of spectators who never before seriously  thought of disabilities, creating in this way, the foundation for a more inclusive nation.

When we associate disability with sports, we do not necessarily need to think of games only played by persons living with disabilities and watched by people without disabilities.

For example the Special Olympics, the biggest organization promoting sport playing for children and youths living with intellectual disabilities, is a pioneer in promoting “unified sports” that brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

Inspired by the principle, that “training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding”, the Unified Sports approach like other inclusive sports practices, is mostly developed in the USA and other western countries.

This might happen because disability in any developing nations is always relegated to a second tier of priorities and probably this is a result of how development aid is structured.

Instead of having sector wise agencies only specialized in one particular issue who are backed up by specialized aid agencies with a strong expertise in that particular area, we should really putting in a place a “one stop social wellbeing shop”.

Like the one stop shops that promote and incentivize the creation of new enterprises, the “social wellbeing one stop shop” would deal with all kinds of social injustices like child marriages, gender discrimination and of course all forms of social exclusion also by offering special employment packages for vulnerable segments of the population.

Inclusive sports playing offer an opportunity to introspect and innovate. It is high time to think differently and boldly, time for more coordination and more partnerships in the disability but also in other social sectors.

We need to dare to change the status quo and sports can help in that.

When Major Ghimire got inspired to start a blind cricket movement in the country, he dreamed big.

When ENGAGE volunteers started thinking of a wheelchair basketball league, they dreamed big.

Quite a few, including myself, were skeptical at the beginning. Yet they remained persistent and confident in pitching their ideas and at that time, who might have bet that such a dream, despite still having tremendous scope of improvement, could be made a reality?

Having a national blind cricket team and simply being able to start the League is a bit like winning the Premier League and believe me it is good feeling like Leicester City these days.

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

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.