Ensuring access to sports for people, from different spheres, is one of the ways of building a society with equality. Since physical activities and sports are great tools that help young people work on their confidence, visually impaired people can benefit to a great extent from them and contribute more to the society.
Bearing this in mind, for the first time in Bangladesh, Camp Abilities Bangladesh, an initiative by Heroes For All, began a two-day sports camp for the visually impaired children. Heroes For All, founded in 2016, is a non-profit organisation to shape the youth's future through various activities. It gives young people a platform to discover their strengths and make a difference.
This year, from January 19-20, volunteers from different universities came forward to help the kids from Assistance for Blind Children. The event took place at Sultana Kamal Mahila Complex in Dhanmondi.
Kids from different districts of Assistance for Blind Children (ABC), participated in the camp. Each child from ABC is paired up with a camp counsellor and played sports as a team. Dr Lieberman, chief guest of the event, and her two team members from USA trained the camp counsellors. While training she found out that among 34 counsellors, no one has ever met someone who is visually impaired.
Dr Lieberman says, “That is a shame. We should let these kids be out in the community and play sports, so that people can see what they can do.” She has also found that these kids are great runners and counsellors, who never met anybody with impaired vision, are very surprised by what these kids can do. Therefore, she hopes for a week-long sports camp in the future.
She also adds, “In my country and probably here too, kids with visual impairment do not have the opportunity to play sports like their peers. The other issue is that most teachers do not know how to teach kids with visual impairment. They are oftentimes pushed off to the side and they do not generally participate in most sports. Hence, when I started the camp, I wanted to provide them with the opportunity to play, so they can learn to improve and achieve.”
At the camp, kids were not afraid of running by themselves, playing cricket and throwing balls. Not only the visually impaired, but also the volunteers experienced things they never did before. Laiza Lamyea, a student from American International University of Bangladesh, who is a counsellor herself, says, “From a campaign by Heroes For All, at our university, I came to know about the initiative. The most important part that I noticed is how they inspire people. We interacted with new people, learned about their experiences and tried new things.”
These two days, therefore, were filled with mutual trust and appreciation. The kids and their counsellors were divided into different teams --- Lions, Tigers, Elephants, Eagles and Cheetahs. Both males and females participated in the games. They played cricket, football, basketball, ran while holding a rope and raced independently. In between, the children performed too, some of them sang beautifully while the others played.
The independent running was a particular favourite among the visually impaired children. Nusrat Zahan Kakoli, from ABC, shares her experience. She says, “I never ran. This was the first time I ran independently. I had the most fun.”
Like Kakoli, the camp was quite freeing for other participants as well. Abu Fayaz, another participant from ABC says, “I think I played High Jump, which I never played before. I do not even know the proper name of the game. Today, I am happy and excited to play these new games.”
Mahbuba Yasmin, from Gazipur, ABC, says, “I never imagined I could build myself like this. Cricket has been the most exciting for me. When I took the bat and ball, I was treated like a usual player.” The sense of confidence they have gained from participating in these sports and discovering new things they are capable of doing, add to the success of the camp.
On the second day of the camp, Bangladeshi cricketers Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Mohammad Mushfiqur Rahim visited the camp. The kids were delighted by their presence and played cricket with them. Even Mashrafe got bowled out while trying to play blindfolded. The camp was an eye-opener for the cricketers as well.
The fundraising dinner and closing ceremony of Camp Abilities Bangladesh took place at North South University. Pro-Vice-Chancellor, North South University, Professor G U Ahsan, stated that this is an excellent initiative that can change the children's lives. Mr. Md Shajahan, Chairman, Board of Trustees, North South University, hopes that with the changes of technology and development of resources, the kids will be allowed to have access to higher education. He gives Heroes For All his assurance that the university will provide future assistance to these kids.
A new pathway, thus, has been shown to these kids through this event by Heroes For All. This non-profit organisation has trained the volunteers two days prior to the event. After four days of persistent hard-work, they managed to give these kids a unique escapade.
President and founder of Heroes For All, Dr Rehnuma Karim says, “When you put a plane on a ground for a long time, it becomes rusty, because a plane is supposed to fly. Similarly, we cannot let the children who are born to fly, stay on the ground. Differently-abled children are gifted with hidden talents. This is a matter Heroes For All wants to address, so that we can bring out their talents to the forefront.”
Proper opportunities must be provided to these children so that they can nurture their talents. They can achieve more, if we believe in them.
A fund-raising auction of cricket balls signed by Mashrafe Bin Mortaza took place at the end of the event. The donations from this auction will be utilised for the development of the visually impaired community. With the hope of more such camps, the event drew to a close on a positive note.