Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Raising Awareness Event at Sapone

Last Saturday we held an awareness-raising event in Sapone, the village from which the Paralympic cyclist Lassane Gasbéogo hails. The aim of the event was to promote the development of inclusive sports. The preparation for the event started last week when we made a preliminary visit to Sapone to organize the event with the locals. The chief of the village warmly received us under the shade of a tree. After introductions were exchanged we outlined the activities that we planned to have at the event including the inclusive and adapted sports sessions and the awareness talks. The chief was very keen so discussion soon turned towards the logistics of the event itself. We were shown a shaded area that would host the awareness talks and the football pitch that would hold all the sports activities: Boccia, Blind Running, Deaf Football and Goalball. Afterwards we had a meeting with the head teacher of the local primary school about the prospect of the children joining in our event. Lunchtime had just started at the school. Tom and I were swarmed by a sea of hands all wanting to be shaken. The head teacher expressed enthusiasm towards the event and said he would encourage his pupils to attend. Our preliminary visit was over. The chief gave us freshly picked mangos as a parting gift, which we were delighted about – we just can’t get enough of them here!

The day of the awareness-raising event

250 young faces greeted us on the morning of the event; the early start was ideal since the unforgiving sun would soon make any physical activity too hard. We split the children into 4 groups that would rotate every 30 minutes around the 4 sports: deaf football, Boccia, goalball and blind running. Sport commenced at just after 8:00am, and finished at 9:30, as it was too hot for the final rotation.

Boccia got off to a slow start as it was a completely new game for the participants, but also because neither Diélika nor I could speak Moore and we therefore struggled to explain the rules effectively. Despite this, a physical demonstration of how the game is played was all that was needed to kick start the game. The children were split into a blue team and a red team with 12 balls to each team. The basic rules of Boccia are as follows: two teams must throw their balls closer than the others to the jackball. The amount of points allocated depends on the amount of balls that are closer to the jackball than the other team’s closest ball. Several people with motor disabilities partook in Boccia, which was great because one of the objectives of the event was to increase participation in sport by people with disabilities.

Biba and Rhiannon set up an area to try out goal ball. Goal ball is a sport for people with a visual impairment (and others!). Each team consists of three people sporting blindfolds and kneepads attempting to defend a goal. The teams take it in turn to roll a ball, which contains a bell, at the other goal and the team with the most goals wins. The sport requires good listening skills, something that many of those trying it out (us included!) found quite challenging. The event drew a big crowd and hilarity ensued as the ball flew through people’s legs and past outstretched arms. As well as being great fun, the demonstration both introduced the sport to the three visually impaired members of the village and served as an excellent example of the fact that disability sports can be played and enjoyed by everyone.

Robert and Gerard ran a blind running activity during the course of the morning. This exercise aimed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by individuals with a visual impairment. During the exercise one individual was blindfolded (to represent a visual impairment) and was guided on the running course through a connection at the wrist to a sighted individual; the same style that is used at official competitions. The event was highly successful, partly through a spirit of competition that was fostered by having the event run by two pairs at the same time. Many of those that took part commented on how un-nerving it was to be running unsighted, Robert found out the hard way when he fell flat on his face- much to the amusement of the children! The event was therefore successful in raising awareness of the issues faced by the visually impaired, and was also a hugely entertaining exercise for all those that took part.

Tom and Stanley decided to structure mini deaf football tournament, with 4 or 5 teams of 6. The rules are the same as those stated by FIFA for 11 a side football, however no speaking or verbal communication is permitted, and flags are used by officials instead of whistles. It was difficult to regulate the games themselves, as participants did not pay sufficient attention to the referee’s flags. That being said it was highly popular and enjoyed by everyone that participated. It also succeeded to raise awareness around deaf sport, and gave the opportunity for one deaf man to try the sport for the first time.

After the sports activities had finished it was time to give the awareness on disability and disability sport. The talk began with informing people about the causes, consequences and types of disabilities. Then we showed the audience pictures of disability sports from the Olympics and described what sport was being played and how it has been adapted to suit that certain disability. For most people it was the first time they had seen many of the sports played at the Paralympics. For example, some people were unaware that a double amputee was able to compete at competition level using prosthetic limbs or that wheelchair rugby existed. Afterwards Lassane Gasbéogo gave a speech about his difficulties growing up with a physical impairment that affected the use of his legs. He told of the struggles of his childhood and of the obstacles he faced growing up, such as being prevented from attending school at the beginning and being told that he would never succeed at hand biking. It was a very moving moment and showed why more work must be done to change the negative mentalities towards people with disabilities. Lassane’s speech concluded, what was for the team, a very successful and enjoyable event

Lassane Gasbéogo giving his speech
We had a chance to play with the children and taught them how to do the Macarena. Then we formed a 50 people long conga train and circled the area to much amusement and laughter. Team leader Boukary and Project Manager were given traditional hats by the chief as tokens of their appreciation. We were then given a tour of the woman’s association of pottery in the village. A member showed us to a mud hut that housed terracotta pots that are used for chickens to lay eggs in and another hut that housed fired clay guttering for roofs.

Our time in Sapone was at an end. It was a great achievement for the team but also for me personally. We have events to do at the University of Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso and I’m sure we can make a difference there too.

No comments:

Post a Comment