The USAID-funded World Education Laos TEAM project partnered with the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) to promote sports among persons with disabilities (PWDs), particularly wheelchair basketball in Vientiane Capital. The project saw the formation of men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams including the minimum target of 42 people with physical impairments. The one year project ran from May 2015 – May 2016.
During the project period, 30 basketball wheelchairs were procured and distributed to the players and then were handed over to CMR at the end of project on 27 May 2016. The regular practice is scheduled on every Friday 5:30pm to 7:30pm, and continues today after the project ends, led by dedicated players and informal support of the AAR staff. The main venue for the practice and domestic tournaments is at the “Indoor stadium of sports for Persons with Disabilities” at the Center for Medical Rehabilitation (CMR), Vientiane.
In addition to regular practices, two domestic tournaments were carried out for the purpose of raising awareness of wheelchair basketball among both PWDs and people without disabilities. A total of 57 PWDs and approximately 80 audience members participated in the tournaments. PWDs from relevant Disabled People Organizations in Laos and Thailand were also invited to the tournament and enjoyed a friendly match.
Ms. Pao, one of the wheelchair basketball players, had a motorbike accident in 2011. Her right leg was amputated and severe scars remain on her left leg. She stated, “I am so thankful to AAR and the TEAM project. I could have an opportunity to play wheelchair basketball again with a proper sports wheelchair. I did not feel safe when I used to play with a regular wheelchair because there was a high risk of injuries. I think PWDs in other provinces do not have the chance to enjoy sports in their daily life, so I hope NGOs like AAR Japan will expand their support to remote areas.”