Burundian sitting volleyball team wins gold at the East Africa Cup
An important crowd gathered to watch the Burundian sitting volleyball team celebrate a hard-fought win over CHRISC Uganda in the finals of the East Africa Cup.
And the celebration was not only about the gold medal. "The members of the team feel extremely proud about participating in this event", noted assistant coach Nadia Harushimana. "Our team, featuring both boys and girls, and comprising players with or without disabilities, showed they could compete with a team of non-disabled players." The team comprises five girls and five boys, with eight of these players are living with a disability.
The Burundian delegation represents the Saint Kizito centre, which specialises in physical rehabilitation and training of children living with disabilities. Most of the children visiting the centre used to be victims of polio, or have been wounded during a decade-long conflict in Burundi.
Building confidence through sports
"In Burundi, people with disabilities tend to interiorise the belief that they are not like other people. I know about cases where someone will refuse to go out and prefer staying at home. I really see the risk that people with disabilities isolate themselves from our society", noted Nadia Harushimana.
Adding sitting volleyball to the East Africa Cup sports codes was meant to help include children with disabilities in the tournament; and bearing in mind the official slogan of the East Africa Cup, 'a week in Moshi, a year in the community', participants in the tournament are now expected to bring these precious experiences back to their communities.
For Nadia, there is no doubt that the participation in such an event can have sustainable effects: "I think our team also triggered quite a lot of interest throughout the tournament, people came to watch and encourage them. Our players became more confident with every victory, and I know for a fact that we will receive a warm welcome back home. Therefore, I think winning this tournament can help show other Burundians that athletes with disabilities are just as capable of winning an international tournament."