Meet the Match

A Young Leader in Ukraine's Paralympic Movement

It all started with an invitation from her father.

Oleksandra Nasadiuk (or “Sacha,” as she is known by her friends) grew up with one sister in Yevpatoriya, a seaport city in Crimea. Although they share few things in common, their one shared feeling was a disinterest in playing sports. But that all changed when Sacha’s father, who worked for a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities in Crimea, asked her to come and help him.

“He told me, ‘Come. You have to see it,’” Sacha recalls. “I was at the cerebral palsy football and sitting volleyball competitions, and I just wanted to be there to help in any way I could. I had never seen so many people with disabilities in my life. And I realized that even though I am not disabled, I do so much less than they do.”

Sacha was glad to have the center in her native town. But she soon moved to the capital, Kyiv, to complete her master’s degree in taxation at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine. However, the passion that she had birthed for working in disability sports never left her.

In 2011, Sacha accepted a position with the National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine (known in the country as the National Sports Committee for the Disabled). As the deputy head of the international relations department, she handles a number of different responsibilities: managing international correspondence and communication; organizing events; and handling administrative responsibilities for athletes and sports teams. The sports Sacha works with include athletics, swimming, 7-a-side football, sitting volleyball, Nordic skiing (cross country and biathlon), table tennis, wheelchair fencing, and powerlifting. During her first two years with the NPC, she also played a key role in organizing the Open Ukraine Athletics Competition, Pre-Olympic 7-a-side Football Tournament, and served as the administrative manager for the Euro 2012 Respect Inclusion Showcase organizing tournaments for children who are deaf or have cerebral palsy.

Although she had to miss three team competitions for her country by participating in the GSMP, Sacha knew the benefits would be long-lasting. Already a young, dynamic leader with strong support from the US Embassy, she hopes to learn ways she can influence national policy to support Paralympic sports and how to seek out diverse funding streams for her organization. With the current conflict affecting her home region of Crimea, Sacha also is working to find ways to support and reintegrate Ukrainian soldiers returning from war with physical and psychological disabilities.

“Because of the war, many of our programs working with children have been cut due to lack of funds,” Sacha says. “But, in their place we are starting programs in hospitals for disabled soldiers, bringing Paralympic champions to inspire them to continue living and show them there are still opportunities in society. We need to do more of this.”

Brielle and her team at Ability360 were the perfect mentors to assist Sacha toward achieving her goals. The organization has a proven record of success in the community and serves people with disabilities through a wide range of sports, a youth afterschool program for children, and creative inclusion programs where those of all abilities engage each other. Ability360 also works with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain trauma, and sleep disorders, which aligned seamlessly with Sacha’s ambitions. On top of all this, the Ability360 campus is home to 11 other non-profits working in the disability sector. St. Josephs Hospital and Arizona State University are also close partners, ensuring that Sacha had a resource for anything she needed during her mentorship.

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