Albina, who was named after the ski boot brand, Alpina, grew up in Izhevsk, Russia. Her father, an alpine skier, shared his love of the sport with her, and early in life, Albina fell in love with skiing and outdoor adventure. As a teenager, Albina worked at an alpine ski resort where she helped begin a free skiing school for children. However, even in her formative years, Albina knew the importance of inclusion. As she was coaching, she noticed that few, if any, of the children had disabilities, which challenged her to take note of the experiences of people with disabilities throughout Russia. In this pursuit, Albina learned that when the U.S.S.R. hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1980, no Paralympic Games were held because “the U.S.S.R. had no one with disabilities.”** Upon closer observation, Albina also learned that people with disabilities in her community faced isolation and ostracization.
Now, as a sports coordinator, Albina works to address the challenges facing persons with disabilities through Dreamski, an adaptive alpine skiing program where she is a chief instructor. Through Dreamski, Albina works to inspire children of all abilities and their families through sports training and wants to show youth that “everything is possible.” For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Albina will be mentored by Tracy Meier, Program and Education Director, and her team at National Ability Center in Park City, UT.
**While Paralympic Games were not held in the U.S.S.R. in 1980, the Netherlands hosted the Summer games and Norway the Winter games. The tradition of holding the Paralympic Games in the same Olympic cities did not begin until Seoul 1988 and Albertville 1992.
Raised by her aunt in Zambia, Chipasha grew up alongside her cousin who was born with physical disabilities and loved lifting weights. Chipasha would help him load weights onto the bar and eventually, helped him transform into a prominent Paralympian in Zambia. Through this hands-on experience, Chipasha developed a passion for adaptive sports and went on to work as an administrative officer for the National Paralympic Committee of Zambia. But Chipasha immediately saw the lack of equipment, awareness, and infrastructure para-athletes face when pursuing sport and is on a mission to change it.
Now, in her role, Chipasha aims to use Paralympic sports as tools to empower persons with disabilities in Zambia and to change perceptions about disabilities. For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Chipasha will be mentored by Stephanie Kanter, Business Support Manager, and her team at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, IL.
Daniel, who is one of six siblings, was raised in Acapulco, Mexico. Growing up near the ocean, Daniel developed a passion for the water and ocean sports. After earning a degree in Business Administration and Corporate Finance, Daniel gained experience as a financial advisor at Deloitte and Inbursa Bank before moving to a position in his family’s construction company. In addition to his professional experience, Daniel also wanted to follow his passion by addressing the challenges athletes with disabilities face in Mexico. He has observed firsthand the realities of limited employment opportunities, poor living conditions, and discrimination in sports based on ability.
Now, as the Founder and Managing Director of Surfeando Sonrisas-Disability Surfing, Daniel aims to use surfing as a vehicle to generate confidence and to empower persons with disabilities throughout his country. For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Daniel will be mentored by Brielle Carter, Program Manager, and her team at Ability 360 Sports and Fitness Center in Phoenix, AZ.
At an early age, Hassan Badji saw that persons with disabilities in his home country of Senegal faced social exclusion and a lack of access to sport programs and equipment. With his passion grounded in addressing these challenges, Hassan has volunteered for the Special Olympics since he was 21 and now leads athlete leadership programs and volunteer trainings. In his role, Hassan aims to use Special Olympics unified sports and training camps to empower people with intellectual disabilities and their volunteer supporters in Dakar and other districts of Senegal.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Hassan will be mentored by Barbara Peacock and her team at Arizona Disabled Sports in Mesa, AZ where he will further develop communication skills and learn best practices for advocacy.
In Uganda, Jameson knows that persons with disabilities face discrimination, are considered less capable, and lack support in education, employment, and sports. Driven to change these realities, Jameson earned a diploma in Olympic Sports and Management from the Ugandan Olympic Committee and is now a certified coach, referee, and technical official in Paralympic sport with the International Paralympic Committee and the International Blind Sports Association. With these qualifications, Jameson now volunteers with the Ugandan Paralympic Committee as an assistant administrator, technical official, and coach where he aims to use Paralympic sports to empower persons with disabilities and to help them gain independence and self-confidence.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Jameson will be mentored by Peter Hughes, interim Athletics Director, and his team at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.
Growing up in Cordoba, Spain, Javier developed a passion for sports and physical activity. Then, during his time as an undergraduate student studying physical education in Madrid, he discovered wheelchair basketball and focused his studies on the sport. Javier pursued this avenue wholeheartedly and went on to earn his PhD with an emphasis in wheelchair basketball. In addition to now serving as a faculty member at the Technical University of Madrid, Javier also serves as a physical trainer and national coordinator for wheelchair basketball in Spain. Javier coached the Spanish wheelchair basketball team at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, as assistant coach and team leader.
Javier is also director of the Chair “Sanitas Foundation” for Inclusive Sport Studies (CEDI) at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), an organization that promotes sports participation for people with disabilities. Collectively, Javier aims to provide inclusive sports opportunities, with a focus on high performance for persons with acquired physical disabilities and veterans. For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Javier will be mentored by Peter Hughes, interim Athletics Director, and his team at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.
Growing up in Rwanda, Jean Baptiste saw firsthand the realities that persons with disabilities face. Members in his community see people like him as incapable of contributing to society, which is magnified by the country’s inaccessible sport facilities and lack of adaptive equipment and inclusive programming. However, as a lawyer with the National Union of Disability Organizations in Rwanda, Jean Baptiste works diligently to improve the conditions of persons with disabilities and specializes in legal rights advocacy.
With his personal and professional background, Jean Baptiste aims to use sport as a tool for social integration and empowerment. For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Jean Baptiste will be mentored by Larry Labiak, Disability Policy Officer, and his team at the Chicago Park District in Chicago, IL.
Jeongmin Lee knows that increased public awareness and accessibility for persons with disabilities is needed in South Korea. As a former member of the Korean national para-rowing and para-cross country skiing teams and current chairperson of the athlete’s council of the Asian Paralympic Committee and the Korean Anti-Doping Association, Jeongmin is committed to changing these realities. He is now pursuing a PhD in sport rehabilitation and medicine and hopes to leverage his Paralympic experience and education to empower persons with disabilities through sport, physical activity, and rehabilitation.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Jeongmin will be mentored by Mary Patstone, Director of Adapted Sports and Recreation, and her team at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network in Boston, MA.
For the past 12 years, Jesley has taught youth physical education classes and helped lead a youth baseball academy in his home country of Nicaragua. Through these experiences, Jesley has seen the lack of programming, facilities, and events that leave persons with disabilities limited access to sport. Now, he’s on a mission to change that by encouraging and engaging others to believe in the possibilities and to help persons with disabilities reach their goals through sport-based initiatives.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Jesley will be mentored by Doug Garner, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation for Adapted Sports, and his team at the University of Texas-Arlington in Arlington, TX.
Growing up in Peru, Jorge developed a love of sports. He played any sport his parents would let him, so when a snowboarding accident left him with paraplegia, his passion became adaptive sports. After earning an undergraduate degree in economics and developing a career as a financial analyst, Jorge combined his passion and education and founded, “bent but not broken,” a non-profit organization that promotes adaptive sports and inclusive experiences for persons with disabilities. Jorge found his niche serving the community in Peru, but he knew he could do more.
Jorge knew that persons with disabilities faced inadequate employment opportunities and had little access to inclusive programming. But, he also saw that they specifically needed access to adaptive equipment. So, Jorge founded, “Tecnologia Adaptada,” a company that produces ultralight wheelchairs. In combination with his non-profit organization, Jorge is on a mission to increase the quality of life for persons with disabilities in Peru and to empower a new generation of youth through adaptive sports. For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Jorge will be mentored by Joanne Wallen, Director of Adult Individual Play and Wheelchair Tennis, and her team at the U.S. Tennis Association in Orlando, FL.
Since she was a child growing up in northwest Lithuania, Kamile knew she wanted to help people in need. She saw the platform of government and policy formation as a platform for change, so she pursued a law degree and graduated from Hauge University of Applied Sciences. After graduating, Kamile took a position as an assistant to the Silauliai city mayor in Lithuania. From there she was offered an opportunity to join the Lithuanian Paralympic Committee as a project manager. Since joining the Paralympic Committee, Kamile has noticed how para-athletes face inadequate training facilities, are viewed as less capable by other athletes and members of society, and often have low-levels of self-confidence. Kamile aims to change this by empowering the Lithuanian national team, encouraging persons with disabilities to pursue sports, and making the organization a leader in advocacy and inclusion.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Kamile will be mentored by Tracy Meier, Program and Education Director, and her team at National Ability Center in Park City, UT.
In addition to her position as an administrative manager at the Ministry of Health in the United Arab Emirates, Klaithem leads women’s programming with the Al Thiqah Club for Handicapped. In 2019, the club will host the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Games where Klaithem will train volunteers and bring awareness to adaptive sports in her country. Klaithem knows the important role she has to change perceptions about persons with disabilities because in the UAE, sports are linked with participation in school, and youth with disabilities often have limited access to education. Klaithem also knows that athletes with disabilities face negative perceptions and a lack of qualified coaches and trainers. Klaithem works to address these inequalities and hopes to establish a facility that builds a system of awareness about all disabilities through sports and physical activity.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Klaithem will be mentored by Peggy Turner, Adapted Sports Coordinator, and her team at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, TX.
As a kung-fu champion and coach in Egypt, Mahmoud knows the power that sport has to transform lives, so after an injury, he transitioned to para-sports. Now, as a professional wheelchair tennis player, marathoner, and CrossFit athlete, Mahmoud travels the country as a motivational speaker. In addition to sharing his story with audiences and encouraging them to pursue their best lives through physical activity, Mahmoud also works as a personal trainer for athletes with disabilities and as an ambassador for the Helm Foundation, an organization in Egypt that promotes inclusion.
Collectively, Mahmoud is on a mission to address the lack of rehabilitation services and accessibility in public spaces by using his platform to raise awareness and create opportunity, with a long-term goal of founding an inclusive fitness center. For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Mahmoud will be mentored by Joanne Wallen, Director of Adult Individual Play and Wheelchair Tennis, and her team at the U.S. Tennis Association in Orlando, FL.
Qaphela knows the challenges facing South African athletes with disabilities better than most. As a teacher with spina bifida and director of “CREATE,” an NGO that works to empower people with disabilities through wheelchair basketball, Qaphela knows that adaptive equipment is scarce and expensive and that finding a coach willing to train athletes with disabilities is difficult. However, Qaphela uses his unique perspective to advocate for change, provide inclusive experiences, and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities by promoting a lifelong enjoyment of sport and instilling the core values of discipline, teamwork, and respect.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Qaphela will be mentored by Doug Garner, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation For Adapted Sports, and his team at the University of Texas-Arlington in Arlington, TX.
Growing up in Shanghai, Xiangdong, or Ken as he’s better known, always loved sports. After studying business, graduating with an MBA, and going on to work as a financial consultant, Ken and his wife Annie founded, “BeYourEyes,” a running program for people with visual impairments. They realized that Chinese people with blindness or other visual impairment had little opportunity to participate in sport and faced public doubt about their abilities. Ken is changing these perceptions, and since 2015, BeYourEyes has helped more than 13,000 participants participate in physical activity in 290 events and hopes to expand to all of mainland China.
For GSMP: Sport for Community 2019, Ken will be mentored by Tina Acosta, Director of Program Outreach, and her team at Turnstone in Ft. Wayne, IN.
In response to the success of the GSMP: Empower Women through Sports program, in 2016 the U.S. Department of State restructured the GSMP initiative to include a disability sport component. Continuing its cooperative partnership with the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, it launched Sport for Community (S4C), which uses a similar immersive mentorship and cultural exchange model to focus on empowering people with disabilities through community-based sports initiatives.
Through S4C, U.S. disability sport leaders and their organizations provide emerging leaders from around the world with the opportunity to cultivate sports management, marketing, and business skills in a U.S. sport-related environment. In 2016, the first S4C program hosted 15 emerging leaders from 13 countries (an earlier version of Sport for Community organized by Partners of the Americas was held in 2014). The 2016 group included Paralympic executives, world champion athletes, disability rights advocates, coaches, and educators, who all returned home to spark significant and positive social impact in their communities.
Despite progress over the years, accessibility challenges, social exclusion, and a lack of educational and sports opportunities continue to keep people with disabilities marginalized. Evidence shows that people with disabilities who are given opportunities to participate in sports experience an increase in self-confidence, social inclusion, economic empowerment, employment, and independence. With the growth in prominence of the Paralympic Games and the increasing development of adaptive sports worldwide, the time is right to empower leaders with a passion and commitment for promoting equality and opportunity so that everyone receives the opportunity to get in the game.