Siem Reap’s first wheelchair sports centre threw open its doors last week to welcome 20 people for a training session in the rules of wheelchair basketball and the basic methods for manoeuvring on the court.
The players, all left disabled by landmines or polio, are participating in XLability, a programme for social integration for those with disabilities, which is run by Soulcial Trust and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“It was a challenging two hours, and I learned a lot” said Muy Bel Seu, director of local NGO Kilt, who is part of the programme and comes from Siem Reap province. “We practised skills like dribbling a basketball, and at the end we had a match between the four different teams, which was the best part because we could put everything we learned to the test.”
The weekly training sessions take place e every Friday evening at the ICF Campus behind the Phum Baitang Hotel. Every two weeks, the ICRC will send players from the ladies’ wheelchair basketball team in Battambang to help train the Siem Reap players. The ICRC donated 10 wheelchairs specifically designed for wheelchair basketball for the programme.
Participants at the first training session included individuals involved with local NGOs working with people with disabilities, among them the Angkor Association for the Disabled (AAD), the Khmer Independent Life Team (Kilt) and Genevieve’s Fair Trade Village.
“While this first training session is focused on wheelchair basketball, it is our hope that we can soon introduce other sports such as wheelchair rugby, tennis and volleyball,” said Genni Low, programmes director at the Soulcial Trust.
The Soulcial Trust and its French partner, XLability, are also arranging a 2-week visit by wheelchair rugby teams based in France and India to train the Cambodian players. The training will take place in November, and include a “classifier” affiliated with the International Wheelchair Rugby Association, who will help with the training and classification of players. As part of the exchange programme, the wheelchair basketball players will also train the French and Indian rugby players in their discipline.
“We are grateful to have this collaboration with the ICRC and the ICF, which made this all possible,” explains Michael Barrett, director of The Soulcial Trust. “We welcome others to join us, whether it is an individual who is able bodied, or people with a disability, anyone interested in joining wheelchair sports can become a part of the game.”
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