“We all need to work to enhance self-esteem, respect from society and confidence of these brothers and sisters with disabilities."

Towards inclusion with adventure Using sports to empower people with disabilities
news Health Sunday, December 03, 2017 - 17:50

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to ‘leave no one behind’, and an important aspect of the vision is how our society engages with persons with disabilities to create an inclusive society.

Declaring the theme for 2017 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed on December 3, as “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”, the UN says, “Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote resilient society for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action, and urban development.”

For empowering people with disabilities to be agents of change, they have to be confident individuals, and adventure sports can be an effective tool – the sports camps conducted by of First Light Consultants, Pune and The AMAZE Charitable Trust, Coimbatore, are proof of it.

Cdr. (Retd) Rajendra Pawar of First Light Consultants and Akila Vaidyanathan, Director of The AMAZE Charitable Trust have been running adventure camps for persons with special needs, especially Autism.

“We all need to work to enhance self-esteem, respect from society and confidence of these brothers and sisters with disabilities. They are a valuable set of people with immense talent and can contribute positively to society. Creating more and more inclusive spaces, infrastructure and opportunities is the need of the hour,” says Padma Ramani, a Special Educator in Pune who has been working along with First Light and AMAZE to help people with disabilities.

The two non-profits conduct activities like valley crossings, burma bridge crossing, river crossing, tarzan swing, commando net climbing, treks through fruit and flower nurseries, nature trails, camp fires and tent stays at the adventure camps for special persons and their families.

Their experience has shown not only that adventure sports can help people with disabilities improve physical health and fitness, but alos that it improves their motor skills, enabling them to have better attention and concentration. It has a positive impact on their social skills as well, as children learn from each other in group activities. They overcome fear, develop a positive attitude and get relieved from stress. It is also a much-needed break from their routine.

“Besides being immensely therapeutic for children in helping them recognise and overcome fears, the camp also boosts the confidence of their parents. Such activities not only aid in community building, but also help foster awareness and empathy in society,” Akila told The Hindu.

“This is our third camp in western Maharashtra. What is heart-warming this time is that we have managed to rope in four children from the social margins, with friends contributing for their stay,” added Cdr. (retd) Pawar.

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