Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mike's Speech-Creating a More Inclusive Society: Promoting Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

Thank you all so very much for coming today.  This has been a long time coming, as we continue building the  infrastructure for sports for persons with disabilities throughout Nepal.  Although the 11 sports wheelchairs are being donated to NWRA, they are for all of Nepal.  My brother Bharat is very much with me on this as he wants to help be a part of growing sports in this beautiful country. 

I was so very happy to see the Danish wheelchair athletes in Nepal a few weeks ago, promoting basketball and table tennis.  The NSCISA is to be commended.  The recent tournaments in Darrang and Pokhara and the organisers are also to be commended.  There are also other things happening such as building accessible sidewalks from Jorpati to Boudha which will be a dream come true and a wonderful start to making KTM an accessible city.  I’ve recently met some Nepali architects and engineers who want to help in these efforts. 

Although we will focus on basketball over the next three days, this is really about sports for Persons with Disabilities, whether it is cricket for those who are site impaired, table tennis, rugby.  It is an individual’s choice in terms of what makes them happy.  Persons with Disabilities have the same rights to participate as anybody else and the Nepal Government has acknowledged this being a signatory to the UNCRPD. 

Now is the time to put aside any differences and come together to promote an inclusive society and opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.  This isn’t about money, as this event has been accomplished without any funds going to anyone.  This was accomplished because people want to help one another.  This isn’t about Nepal being a poor country, although I don’t really believe this, especially when I look at all of you.  Nepal is rich with resources, just look at those around you.  To me it is about working in a non-violent, collaborative, respectful manner to build a very strong movement.  This takes an entire society people from all sectors, civil society, government, corporates and others, those who strongly believe in unity.

My feeling is that this event shows unity. 

My friends Dan, Greg, Pete, Chuck, Shelley, Maralyn are here from WAW.  Without their initiative these clinics and the donation of sports wheelchairs, for the first time in Nepal, wouldn’t be occurring. Our partnership, through volunteering, started with a similar program in India in November 2011 where we all met Aamir Khan.   I want to thank all of the NGOs that we’ve spoken with and those who agreed to partner:  Nepal Wheelchair Rugby Association (NWRA)-Bharat and Sitaram and Choo,  Nepal Spinal Cord Injury  Sports Association, Aakash, a young man who cares deeply and his bosses who are leading in accessibility issues, Nepal Physiotherapy Association, Bikash Nepal, VSO Nepal, ENGAGE, working to create more volunteering throughout society-My friends Simo and the real boss of this newly formed Nepali NGO, Kalpana, the young adults volunteering from Thames who will be helping us to build capacity through coaching throughout KTM, CSRC (accommodation), Nepal Army (transportation), Nepal Basketball on Facebook, the government through Nepal Paralympic Committee and the National Sports Council, providing an in-kind donation of the Covered Hall as well as,

variety of corporates including DRAGONAIR/Cathay Pacific providing free transports of 11 donated sports wheelchairs from Los Angles to Kathmandu and sending Bharat to Korea to learn about wheelchair rugby, Chaudhary Group (CG Foundation) and my friends there including Nirvana Chaduhary, providing Wei-Wei and soft drinks, gold medals for all athletes and a banner,  the Himalayan providing four advertisements, Himalaya Television my friends Jini and Chang, providing media coverage, Bottlers Nepal, providing soft drinks, International College of Hospitality Management (ICHM) providing meals, Media Gallery, my friend Anmol, providing advertisement design, FORCE Nepal, media coverage, Pioneers, my friend Ramesh providing young volunteers through school captains, and Nature Trail Travels and Tours, my friend Bishnu providing transportation for wheelchair athletes.  I of course also want to thank the best Nepali wheelchair basketball coach Raj Kumar, who is very devoted to working with Persons with Disabilities. 

There are also many others who are with us and that includes everyone here.

Over the next three days, let’s have fun and enjoy each other’s company.  But let’s remember that this is only a beginning, we need to continue to dream, one day a national sports centre for Persons with Disabilities, competing on a regular basis at an international level, creating a more inclusive Nepali society. 

It’s up to all of us!  Go Team Nepal!