The Nepal Spinal Cord Injury Sports Association (NSCISA) meet regularly to run wheelchair basketball training sessions and matches for its many members, most of whom have a spinal cord injury. The commitment and energy from the players is amazing, despite not having the right equipment. Getting together to play sport has an incredible transformative effect on a person's wellbeing and happiness. Life is especially challenging for wheelchair users in Nepal so providing an opportunity to meet up and play sport with friends provides a great boost to their morale, it is also a great way to integrate people with disabilities into the community and raise awareness about spinal cord injury.
However, the members have to play in their everyday manual wheelchairs because they and their club cannot afford proper sports wheelchairs. Wheelchair basketball is a physical impact sport so the members' wheelchairs get knocked, bashed and badly damaged. Their own wheelchairs are also a lot harder to propel so the players use up a lot more energy trying to move around the court. The members rely on these wheelchairs for their everyday mobility so a damaged wheelchair can be detrimental. Without the right equipment the members also can't play to their true potential or get maximum enjoyment out of the sport.
Photos of some of the NSCISA members playing in their own everyday chairs:
Sports wheelchairs are light, quick and easy to manoeuvre, they also have an anti-tip wheel at the back to prevent players tipping over. With the right equipment we can help the players increase their level of skill which will lead onto greater confidence and start them on a journey to playing more competitive national and international games, perhaps even the Paralympics...
The story so far
The idea to send sports wheelchairs to Nepal began with the wedding of Natalie and Simon. Natalie works for Motivation Charitable Trust, an international disability charity (www.motivation.org.uk). She manages a project in Nepal that is helping to improve wheelchair service provision with four rehabilitation centres. It is through this project that she found out about the NSCISA and their need for sports wheelchairs. When Natalie and Simon wed in June 2014 they asked their friends and family to donate money towards buying sports wheelchairs in lieu of receiving presents. They were overwhelmed by their guests kindness and raised enough to buy 10 wheelchairs, that's enough for two teams! Natalie and Simon would prefer to use all the money they raised through their wedding to buy as many wheelchairs as possible so more people can play in the right equipment, so that is why they are trying to raise the money for the shipping cost separately.
Motivation specialises in wheelchair design and were asked by the International Paralympic Committee to design a low cost sports wheelchair to help grassroots organisations in developing countries to access sport. The result has been incredible, with new wheelchair basketball clubs and teams forming in Ethiopia, Cambodia, Iraq, Guatemala, Tibet... You can read an example of the impact in Afghanistan below.
Photo of a wheelchair basketball team in Cambodia using Motivation's sports wheelchairs. This is what we want to send to Nepal!
What we need
With the money already raised to buy the sports wheelchairs (approx £2,000) we now need to get the wheelchairs to Nepal. Motivation has the right sizes in stock so they're ready to ship as soon as we have raised the money. We have been quoted £1,000 to airfreight the 10 wheelchairs from the UK and it will cost a further £100 to clear the wheelchairs with the customs department in Kathmandu and deliver to the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Sanga, who have kindly agreed to store the wheelchairs. The total needed is therefore £1,100. The wheelchairs are quick to assemble so once they've arrived in Nepal the players can soon be whizzing around the court and shooting hoops.
Rajendra, a Nepali physical therapist specialist who is closely associated with the NSCISA and now works in England, has kindly offered to help raise the money for shipping. We all hope that the full amount can be raised soon so that we can send the wheelchairs to Nepal and encourage many people to take part in sport.
Natalie personally knows members of the NSCISA and has been liaising with them directly about the arrangements to send the wheelchairs. Aakash the president of NSCISA expressed the clubs joy at hearing the news:
"...with your surprising wedding gift, not only me but also all the board members of NSCISA are so much surprise and happy to find this great news. I have no words to thank you and Simon for this gift. This is only thing which very few people do, in Nepal this is very strange, to collect fund for wheelchair for the people like us in the wedding ceremony. This has boosted our level up."
An example of the impact of wheelchair sport in Afghanistan
The International Committee of the Red Cross has procured Motivation's sports wheelchairs for their orthopaedic centre in Kabul. Eight wheelchair basketball teams have now been established in Afghanistan (including a women's team) and they have organised their own national league. Earlier this year they even played in their first international match in Italy. Dr Cairo of the orthopaedic centre comments:
“It’s transformed their confidence and self-esteem. A few have decided to start English lessons and to attend courses too. For years we advised them to do so, but it was sport that performed the miracle – that knocked down the barriers.”
Dr Cairo goes on to say the success of the game has taught him that the physical benefits are only part of what rehabilitation can offer:
“The physical rehabilitation we do here [at the orthopaedic centre] is very important, but often it is very painful for the patients. When we began basketball, I realised that for the first time in my life I was just giving people fun. It’s pure fun and nothing else.”
Motivation's sports wheelchairs in action in Afghanistan...
...help us get them to Nepal too!
If you have any queries about this project you are welcome to contact Natalie by email or phone (firstname.lastname@example.org / 07850 292835) or Rajendra (Rajendra_physio@yahoo.co.uk / 07577 605 627).