Team sports provide the opportunity to be part of something, to belong – a framework with inclusion at its core. Light for the World harnesses these benefits by designing sports projects for people with disabilities which break down barriers and bring people together.
Breaking down barriers
For the 15% of the world’s population with a disability, access to sporting activities can be limited. This is often due to barriers preventing participation, such as ill-designed equipment and discrimination built on cultural and social prejudices.
Light for the World’s sports programmes show that inclusion is not only possible, but a path to empowerment, with physical and mental benefits too.
“Everyone watching is surprised when they find out we are blind. Being blind doesn’t mean being incapable – blind people have a lot to offer. We can do anything!Handsome Jimmy, blind footballer
Cohesion not division
The impact of inclusive sports goes far beyond the game itself. It is powerful: it builds self-confidence, increases independence, addresses social tensions, puts people on the same level and boosts social cohesion.
In the ‘Sports for Peace’ project launched by Light for the World in an internally displaced people (IDP) camp in Juba, South Sudan, the initiative has brought people from different ethnic backgrounds together and enabled friendships across generations of conflict.
The football team also supports people with disabilities in the camp, ensuring those who need assistance get access to food and other services, repairing tents, taking patients to hospital and raising awareness about disability inclusion wherever they can.
A blind football team, founded by Light for the World and coached by one of our Disability Inclusion Facilitators, has changed Jimmy’s life. After he went blind ten years ago, a difficult period of adjustment began for him. “I felt so alone and even wanted to take my own life. It is not easy to be blind in South Sudan,” he tells us.
Since joining the blind football team, Jimmy has felt great motivation: “I love it, I’m dribbling and scoring goals. My teammates even call me Messi! Football brings people together. My teammates come from all different corners of South Sudan. We are not just friends, not just footballers, we are a family and brothers! Our goal is to play in the Paralympics.”
Sport and play also offer an opportunity to bond and embrace people’s different strengths. Light for the World’s inclusive sports programmes allow disability to become more visible in the community and recognition of people, especially youth, with disabilities amongst their peers increases.
In Mozambique, Light for the World partners with sports associations in Sofala, Manica and Niassa, supporting the training of 250 people with disabilities in several sports, including wheelchair basketball. We are members of the Paralympic Committee of Mozambique and the National Sports Federation for Persons with Disabilities.
In South Sudan, in addition to blind football, we’ve also launched a school volleyball team with exclusively deaf members and begun a wheelchair basketball initiative, again coached by DIF, Simon Madol Akol.
Poni, aged 17, has been deaf since early childhood. She says, “Volleyball gives me power! Before…I was always left out… Now that I’m playing, people realise that we’re equal. It’s inclusive now and no-one is neglected.”
Success in sport is often the result of a team pulling together to pursue one common goal, where everyone is celebrated as equals, whilst keeping fit – and just as importantly, while having fun! It is the perfect environment to integrate and empower people with disabilities, and Light for the World’s pioneering projects will continue to make the most of that.
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