"Fit and Healthy No Matter What"
"Fit and Healthy No Matter What"
The new programme, launched by the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nepal and ENGAGE, a local not for profit, is focused on adaptive sports and psychosocial support for persons with disabilities.
Amid difficult circumstances caused by COVID-19, persons living with disabilities are one of the most exposed and at-risk groups, especially in a developing country like Nepal where the quest for social inclusion, social justice and equity is still a work in progress.
There have been certainly progress in the last decade but vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including persons with disabilities, are still left behind, with less access to opportunities to enjoy their fundamental rights.
The lockdown that was enforced in Nepal since end of March till end of June particularly affected persons with disabilities whose mobility was already hampered and limited before the pandemic hit, mainly because of lack of basic accessibility infrastructures in the society.
Sports have been for them a great way not only to maintain healthy lives but also to express their untapped potential and overall enhance their wellbeing.
The lockdown and the rigid safety protocols being imposed to prevent the spreading of the virus halted all the sports opportunities so far enjoyed by persons with disabilities.
That’s why the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nepal and ENGAGE, a local not for profit focused on adaptive sports among other activities, devised a virtual program entitled “Fit & Healthy No Matter What, online adaptive sports, Awareness Making and Psychosocial Support for persons living with disabilities” that started on July 11th and it will run till the end of September 2020.
The program which completely runs online, not only offers personal fitness sessions including weekly work out sessions, periodic yoga and Zumba but also provides an opportunity for self-development and international exposure with weekly reading and debating on stories of international adaptive athletes and other inspirational sports stories and weekly talk programs with international adaptive sports practitioners.
Extremely important, the program also offers free counseling sessions for persons with disabilities with a highly experienced psychologist in Nepal where participants can talk and share their anxieties and struggles.
Thus, Fit & Healthy No Matter What is also a tool for awareness making, raising the visibility of persons with disabilities within the society.
In this regard, young female deaf football players, all working with ENGAGE, are running a sign language class open to everybody so that more and more people will have the chance to learn the foundations of sign language, helping to make the society more inclusive.
We believe that these unique circumstances offer an opportunity for persons with disabilities, especially youth and young adults but also for their peers living without disabilities, to come together and learn new things rather than passively staying home and losing hope and just waiting for a new normal to come.
“The high digital reach and level of participation in these online sessions, demonstrate the importance of sports practice and coaching for people with disabilities. To me, it really shows that the ICRC is essentially supporting people with disability in Nepal in this very challenging COVID-19 period. Since the preparation phase of the online sessions, we have witnessed a very high level of motivation from both organizers and, most importantly, beneficiaries.
The fact that psychosocial aspect is fully integrated into the online sessions makes the interventions even more meaningful, as sport and psychological wellbeing are closely related. It is therefore extremely important to find creative ways to maintain social connection and ensure continuous support to people in need” shares Mr. Jerome Imstepf, Head of Mission of the ICRC in Nepal.
The program itself was the brainchild of the ENGAGE sport coaches, the members of the volunteering program run by ENGAGE where local youth with a passion for sports form new partnerships with peers living with disabilities through sports, a tool used not only to have fun but also to grow.
In this way Fit & Healthy No Matter What is platform for self development, not only of youth and young adults living with disabilities but also of their able-bodied peers.
Both ICRC - working in the country to support the physical rehabilitation of thousands of people affected by the conflict, violence and situations of crisis - and ENGAGE - that partners with youths to lay the foundations for a more inclusive society - believe that social inclusion will be achieved when persons with disabilities will have more and fairer opportunities but also when persons without disabilities will show more inclusive behaviors and patterns.
In the first two weeks, we had a good participation and an increasing number of persons following the activities through social media.
Participants also had the opportunity to speak live with Jessica Hillier-Davidson, an American wheelchair tennis and para triathlon athlete and also with Rodney Holt, founder of BSF Asia and a great supporter of adaptive sports in the Asia Pacific region.
Many sessions are facilitated by the ENGAGE sport coaches including the Reader’s Corner where participants were inspired by the story of Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a two times gold winner in the Paralympics who is trying, after retirement, to bunch back in action and qualify for Tokyo 2020.
There was also a discussion group on the achievements of Matt Scott, the famous American wheelchair basketball player who played a commercial for Nike called “No Excuses”.
Through these discussions we do not want just to share about great and successful athletes overseas, but the aim is to inspire and motivate local adaptive sports athletes here in Nepal that also possess great level pf talent.
They are a source of inspiration and resilience and deserve the best platform to show their worthiness as sports champions and human beings.
We hope that Fit & Healthy No Matter What can contribute to highlight not only their challenges but especially their potential and of course, their achievements.
For more details, www.engage.org.np
You can follow the activities live at www.facebook.com/engagenepal
- Simone is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, a local not for profit working for social inclusion.
- Samridhi is a Disability Inclusion Adviser with the ICRC and a University of Sydney graduate.