United for Social Inclusion: The ENGAGE Sport Coaching Program
Since 2013 local youths with a great passion for basketball have decided to spend eleven months serving as ENGAGE Sport Coaches, ESCs the flagship program promoted by ENGAGE, a small not for profit working in Nepal in the field of social inclusion and disability rights.
On the 4th of November, a new batch of ESCs will start their intensive pre-service capacity building training aimed at equipping them with all the skills and abilities to lead a local wheelchair basketball team partnering with ENGAGE.
Together with their players, the coaches will train on weekly basis and will work hard for the 3rd edition of the Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League, the main wheelchair basketball competition in Nepal and possibly in South Asia that will be played in 2018.
Becoming part of the program is not just about love for basketball but also a true call to duty, a commitment to deeply understand disability issues in the complex context of an emerging nation like Nepal. While a new Disability Rights Act was passed in early August that, once its regulations will be finalized, could radically open a new era of social inclusion, the true is that persons with disabilities face long standing vulnerability and isolation.
Through sports ENGAGE and several other local organizations are trying to bring out the best of youths living with physical disabilities. The ENGAGE Sport Coaching program has the ambition to be the link between youths with disabilities and those without, between exclusion and inclusion.
It is a great way to create new connections and friendships, overcoming rigid boundaries set by the society and by the social economic conditions faced by many youths with disabilities.
Take for example Dan Theengh and Beg Tamang, both players of the Jawalakhel Wheelchair Sport Club, a group that not only plays wheelchair basketball but also acts as self-help group. They are both very young, Dan twenty one years old while Beg is eighteen years old. They both come from the same ethnic group excluded from access to power and resources. They both come from families who have been trying their best to support their sons but have been struggling economically. They both have suffered, once child, with polio, a condition that profoundly marked their life. Yet originally from rural districts, they managed to come to Kathmandu, like many others, searching for better opportunities.
In their club, they found a new family, a support group that embraces more than twenty youths with disabilities, all paying an annual membership fee, all ready to help each other in moments of need. Both Dan and Beg are brilliant on the court with Dan being selected most valuable player in the 2nd edition of the League. Both have been able to study at higher secondary level and they have big dreams ahead. Why not? After all you can see sport for peace and development as incubator of big dreams. Dan is focused on becoming a professional wheelchair basketball player playing overseas while Beg would love to become a professional in the banking or accounting industries.
The ESCs who will start the new 2017/2018 season, many of them, renewing their commitment from last year, have this big responsibility: help peers like Dan and Beg to excel on court but also support them towards a thriving life off court. This is ultimate goal of ENGAGE, supporting the process of self-empowerment of youths living with disabilities.
We call it “self-empowerment” because nothing will happen unless youths like Dan and Beg will push themselves very hard towards their dreams. Yes for that they will need support and encouragement. That’s why the ESCs will be trained on leadership and personal accountability as ENGAGE wants them to be character leader, strong motivators and role models.
They will be trained to be excellent wheelchair basketball coaches and in the attempt to make them better, this year they will have to undertake level I Coaching License with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. Through sports for peace and development and peer to peer cooperation, the foundations for a better, more equal and just society are being created. Step by step, basket after basket. On court and off court!