Wheelchair Basketball, Disability Rights and Inclusion

Fourteen adaptive sports coaches descended on Louisville from Zambia for the 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament! The fourteen coaches represented Special Olympics Zambia, National Paralympic Committee of Zambia, Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Child Development, Baeuleni United Sports Academy, and more. The coaches were invited to the United States on a project of “Disability Rights and Inclusion” sponsored through the U.S. Department of State, Sports Diplomacy. World Affairs Council partnered with FHI360 to provide an unforgettable experience for the coaches and Kentucky counterparts that they met with.

 

Following the tournament, coaches met with several local agencies, individuals, and organizations working for disability rights and inclusion in sports. The group started their local meetings with Louisville Metro Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, the first foreign-born resident to sit on Louisville Metro Council. Councilman Lanshima lost his arms in an accident while living in Nigeria. He shared his personal journey in paralympic sports, which is what ultimately brought him to Louisville through a sports scholarship with Bellarmine University.

Sports was the first thing that taught me that I could be free.

Louisville Metro Councilman, Vitalis Lanshima

Special Olympics Kentucky met with the group afterwards to talk about the organization’s history, work, challenges, and successes. Mr Hunter Brislin, Program Director of Team Sports and Coach Education, and Mr. Justin Harville, Director of Volunteers and Program Services, provided a presentation and answered questions about Special Olympics in Kentucky.

Mr. Greg Fante, Vice President of Sports Development with the Louisville Sports Commission, put together a strong panel of guests and hosted a roundtable on “Sports Tourism, Events, and Accessibility” for the coaches at the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB). The panel included: Ms. Vickie Lincks, Executive Director of Kentucky & Southern Indiana Paralyzed Veterans of America; Ms. BJ Levins, Recreation Administrator for Louisville Metro Parks’ Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program; Mr. Brad Knapp, Destination Services Manager, LCVB; Ms. Gen Howard, Senior Sales Manager (Sports), LCVB; and Mr. Dave Patrone, Vice President of Client Services, Kentucky Venues. Immediately, the roundtable talked about the logistical challenges and successes for hosting the National Wheelchair Bakestball Tournament, including transportation, venue, hotel, and more. The group was greatly impacted by the amount of collaboration and partnerships that it takes to pull a successful event.

 

The group was impressed to see that hosting events such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament requires the entire city’s cooperation.

The following day was spent entirely at the University of Louisville to meet with the Department of Health and Sports Sciences and participate in a sports psychology workshop with 2nd Wind Motivation by Cheryl Hart. The last day of programming, the group visited Churchill Park School which serves students age 5 to 21 who have moderate to severe disabilities and need a specialized program. They were able to view the school’s adaptive recreation and sports, including an adaptive playground, adaptive swimming pool, bowling alley, and gym.

 

As their final meeting, the group spent an afternoon with BJ Levins and Metro Parks staff at the Louisville Metro Parks Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program at Berrytown Recreation Center. The group learned about the history of the park’s involvement in adaptive recreation, the plethora of programs and sports available to the community, and the administration of such programs. Then comes the fun — archery class!

 

If you want to view the group’s Facebook album for more pictures, follow this link

 

Hershberg Scholar Kaitlin Henning on research trip to Mexico

Kaitlin Henning is a undergraduate at the University of Kentucky studying anthropology and international studies. Last year she became one of our two 2017 Hershberg Scholarship winners with her proposal to travel to Oaxaca to study social justice. A reflection on her experiences this past summer in Mexico are below.


This summer, thanks in part to the Hershberg scholarship, I spent two amazing months in the Southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. These eight weeks were filled to the brim with experiences and adventures which have forever changed my perspective. As a student of the SURCO organization (University Services and Networks of Knowledge in Oaxaca) my classmates and I took classes on the effects of neoliberalism as well as experienced the beauty of one of the most biologically and ethnically diverse regions of the world through first hand field work. For the first half of the trip, our group took weekend trips to different parts of the state to speak and visit directly with activist groups and cooperatives who were experts on individual topics we would spend the week before learning about in class. These weekend trips took us from hundreds of meters up into the mountains to meet with indigenous communities struggling with land reform in the north to Afro-Mexican communities navigating identity politics on the southern coast.

One of my favorite trips was to the Vida Nueva women’s weaving co-op in the nearby town of Teotitlan del Valle. These women, varying in age but all members of the Zapoteco indigenous community, were defying traditional gender roles by weaving tapestries and making other weaved crafts and selling them themselves in the Oaxaca markets. Traditionally, the practice of making and selling these items were considered men’s work but to preserve the tradition after men in the community relocated due to labor migration, women in this community took over the trade. They use the money they to earn to buy supplies as well as execute an annual community project. After making us a delicious meal, these ladies showed us how they cleaned and spun wool, which, to my classmate’s and my chagrin after trying to emulate their actions, is much harder than their expert hands make it look. They also explained to us the various methods they use to make the all-natural dyes they make to color the wool, and how delicate this practice is in order to achieve just the correct hue. They demonstrated how the addition of acids and bases can change the shades of colors as if by magic. Each pattern they incorporate into the tapestry and each color has a specific meaning important to the representation of their culture and the themes they are trying to present through their art work.

My last few weeks in Oaxaca were spent conducting research on and gathering testimonies from indigenous community radio stations. These stations use the sound waves as a form of vigilance to inform their communities of the truth in news when the media does not honestly report events that are of relevance to them. This was most markedly noted when in 2003 the village of Santa Maria Yaviche was attacked by a paramilitary group supported by the government after attempting to unite with the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca to claim their rights. This attack was not reported by the media and the news of the killings would have been silenced had it not been for the use of these community-ran radio stations that shared their testimonies with the state through this medium. My research took me to five different towns to meet with community DJs and learn about the specific causes for which each station was organized. These causes ranged from women’s empowerment to environmental preservation.

In addition to this research, I am now also drastically more comfortable in my Spanish speaking abilities. Not only did I attend Spanish classes and interact with my Spanish-speaking host family every day, but all my research interviews were conducted in Spanish as well. This practice gave me a practical experience with the translation process that is already serving me well in my Spanish classes at UK this semester.

I will never forget my time in Oaxaca and am immensely grateful for the lessons this scholarship as afforded me. On this trip, I met some of the most amazing people and accomplished things I never imagined I would be able to do. My limits were tested for the better and I have returned to campus with the knowledge that I have accomplished hard work and am ready to do more. I would like to thank Mrs. Hershberg and the World Affairs Council for their generosity, without which, I would not have been able to experience this adventure of a lifetime.