"Disability is a state of mind", and this is what the youth at the Ability Camp in Ladakh have proved over the past two years, hosted in the Leh district.
A camp organised and hosted by the People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights (PAGIR) supported by the Jammu & Kashmir Police - Leh, it is a 15-day life skill residential program for people with disabilities and is free of cost. The age bar was kept between 6 to 50 years and the camp witnessed a total of 40 participants.
This was the second time PAGIR organised the Ability Camp (first one hosted in 2018). At the second highest ice rink in the world, this camp teaches their participants how to play sledge and ice hockey. The other two promising hands involved at making this camp a success were Canada for donating the sledges and CanAssist, a charity of the Canadian High Commission who had come on-board as the co-sponsor.
The camp was active from 5th January to 20th January 2019. The encouraging 15 days was closed with a friendly match between the children on 21st January 2019. The highlight though was the cheer-some game between the District Police, Leh and the Canadian volunteer's team at the Police Ice Hockey Rink Angling.
The motive behind organising this camp is to raise awareness and help the people with disabilities see for themselves the potential they have. Sledge and ice hockey are Paralympic games and these camps are a foundation ground for them, to help them aim higher.
During her interactions with Inspire Crew, Shruti More, the camps facilitator and an Occupational Therapist with Handimachal Therapy Centre explained the thought and planning that went behind organising this camp and the activities. Most of the girls were novice.
" Apart from the regular benefits of playing any sports, what other goal are social inclusion. People with disabilities are usually excluded from the mainstream arenas. A simple act of all the ability camp participants going to watch a hockey match in the main Hockey tournament is silent message.
Watching people with disabilities playing sports is also very motivational and inspiring for other people. For people with disabilities the benefits are they get a safe place to be, to express, to build social relation outside of their families, positive self image and having fun!
Cynthia Hunt, Founder & Director, Help fund and Health Inc, has been conducting Ice Hockey camps in India for a couple of years for youth development. During her visits, she often interacted with people with disabilities who frequently expressed their interests in this game. The interactions made her ponder, giving birth to the idea of the Ability Camp.
" Some of the obstacles were to gather the resources, building the adaptive aids and making adaptations in the game itself to help the participants play in ease. Getting an Ice Rink was a bigger challenge as most of them are privately owned which caused a set back for some years. .
In 2018, the J&K Police stepped in and offered their rink where the Ability Camp has been successfully hosted, twice now. Cynthia also roped in CHAI-India which is a group of Canadian and Indian volunteers working with various NGOs at similar youth camps.
The camps focused on the all-round development of their participants and not in just one sport. The afternoons and evenings mostly included activities like knitting, paper-making, crafts and other simple traditional skills. Speakers and experts from medical backgrounds were also a part of the program to ensure the participants could freely discuss their discomforts.
Seeing the promising results and the confidence that the participants exhibited in the closing ceremony, Miss Sargun Shukla, SSP Leh, has assured to look out for more such possibilities where the country can provide similar platforms to their people.
With opportunities growing like this, we look forward to a future of a strong team, debuting India at the Winter Paralympic Games.
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