Adaptive Sports Project Builds Self-Esteem for Youth With Disabilities
In 2015-2016, UCP Wheels for Humanity continued its adaptive sports program for children with disabilities funded by the US Department of State. The project helps the El Salvador national sports department (INDES) and the Association for Wheelchair Sports (ASADESIR) to provide weekend sports camps for children with a range of disabilities. The two-day, two-night camps are often the kids’ first time away from home — and often their first time interacting with a number of other children with disabilities — and they are fun, inclusive and exciting. In addition to exercising and learning to play a range of sports, the kids also participate in traditional camp activities like singing and dancing. In March 2015, the project brought adaptive sports coaches and elite wheelchair athletes to El Salvador to work with the camp coaches and counselors to improve their coaching skills in wheelchair basketball, swimming, athletics and more. Then, in August 2015, we brought the El Salvador camp staff and about a dozen of the children to the National Abilities Center in Utah for more training and cultural activities.
In February 2016, UCP Wheels for Humanity (UCP Wheels) and project partner ASADESIR held a Sports Festival and Adaptive Sports Camp. The Sports Festival was one of the pinnacle events of the project, designed to showcase the skills and knowledge that the Salvadoran coaches acquired during the international exchanges as well as to celebrate and share the sports skills of the youth camp participants with other children with and without disabilities. The Sports Festival kicked off with a Public Fair followed by an Adaptive Sports Camp.
On February 26, 2016, UCP Wheels and ASADESIR brought together more than 160 people for a Public Fair celebrating the connecting, uplifting power of sports. Attendees included past camp participants, children with disabilities from local rehabilitation centers and special schools, as well as parents, coaches, and special guests. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, the national rehabilitation institute (ISRI), the national sports department (INDES) and the local government of Mejicanos, where the sports facility is located, attended, as well as the President of the Archery Federation, President of the Rotary Club in El Salvador, President of the National Committee for People with Disabilities (CONAIPD), Director of Fundacion Teleton Pro Rehabilitacion (FUNTER) and Salvadoran Congressman David Reyes, who is a wheelchair user and is part of the governmental commission that works on inclusion issues. The Public Fair was also attended by Brent Israelsen, Cultural Affairs Officer within the US Embassy in San Salvador, and several of his staff members. The Public Fair was a lively event in which the children participated in ‘Friendship Games’, played games, danced and socialized. The children participated in a range of sports including archery, tennis, basketball, and track and field. All youth in attendance had the opportunity to play, regardless of whether they had attended past camps or were visiting from the special schools. For most of the new attendees, this was the first time they had ever played a sport, and they were very excited!