Supporting African Coaches in Cerebral Palsy Awareness
At the end of 2019, I was asked by Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association (CPISRA) if I would like to deliver a Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness course to a group of coaches in Marrakech, Africa, as part of the International Paralympic Committee Athletics Grand Prix taking place there in February 2020. I was very excited and felt honoured and privileged to be asked to deliver such a session to a large number of coaches in Africa. I would have the opportunity to support them and assist in expanding their knowledge of CP within the sporting context.
From the point of accepting the request and leading up to February, I worked closely with CPISRA to develop a 4-hour workshop which included looking at the medical side of Cerebral Palsy and the important role sport has to play on someone’s life with CP. Once in Marrakech, I supported the delivery around the medical side of CP by providing lived experiences and my own perceptions of a person living with CP. I delivered the sections detailing the barriers that people may face including physical, attitudinal, policy and social barriers. Furthermore, I advised upon what sports and opportunities there are for people with varying levels of CP, coaching considerations, and things to consider when coaching someone with CP.
As a Level 3 coach, I was able to provide in-depth knowledge and skill developments that I have previously used when coaching disabled people – giving some of my secrets away and showing that given the right environment and support people with CP can excel. There were many questions and in-depth conversations around catering athletics for everyone. Opportunities that we have in the Western world is far from what they have available to them in Africa. Many disabled people don’t get the chance to experience life or sport the same way as their non-disabled peers due to financial and attitudinal barriers. Many families feel the disabled person is left without any education or prospect for their life.
During this session, I was asked about experiences that I have had in school and in society. I was very open and honest with my peers and showed them that no matter how hard life has been, I have still achieved everything that I wanted to do within sport and in life. They called me courageous but as I said I am just living life the way I want to live and experience life to its fullest.
The session was delivered to a total of 23 coaches from 12 African Nations including Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Morocco, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Congo, Kenya and Qatar who were attending the IPC Grand Prix. As most African nations only speak in French or in their native language, we had an interpreter for the sessions who translated everything into French, this was a challenge but a great experience and reminded me that maybe I should have paid more attention in my French lessons in school!
Personally for me, being able to experience Marrakech and see some of the sights was an absolute honour and privilege. The overall sense of achievement for me was providing knowledge, confidence and understanding of CP to a group of coaches and Nations that clearly wanted to learn; this will stay with me for a very long time.
We are hoping to run a second session in Tunisia in June 2020 – depending on the travel restriction at that time – but we have seen first-hand how important projects like this are to countries in Africa.