An award-winning research and service center in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences is leading a diplomacy initiative across the United States this April to promote inclusion for people with disabilities.
The Center for Sport, Peace, and Society welcomed 15 international sports leaders from 15 countries to Washington, DC, to participate in Sport for Community, part of the larger Global Sports Mentoring Program for which the center has served as the US Department of State’s cooperative agreement partner since 2012.
In that time, the CSPS has trained more than 160 leaders from 75 countries through Sport for Community and a sister program focused on empowering women and girls.
“We are humbled to walk alongside this year’s group of change makers, who are working diligently to make a difference for persons with disabilities in their home countries,” said Sarah Hillyer, clinical assistant professor and director of the CSPS. “Thanks to the support and investment of the US Department of State, we continue to see the power of sport being used in innovative ways to create more inclusive communities.”
The CSPS has run the Sport for Community exchange program since 2016. For the first time this year, representatives from Lithuania, Nicaragua, Senegal, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the program.
As part of the exchange, established sports leaders from around the world are chosen and trained by the center’s staff in Washington for a week. They are then partnered for three weeks with host organizations where they develop action plans, and later return to Washington to present their plans for creatively using sport to address social problems in their communities.
Among the participants in the 2019 program:
- China’s Xiangdong Lu, co-founder of a running program for people who are blind or visually impaired, who has secured partnerships with Apple and Google
- Javier Perez Tejero, a Spanish researcher who runs an organization that provides health services for people with disabilities
- Klaithem Al Matrooshi, chairwoman of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health and women’s programming lead for the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Games in 2019
Host organizations participating in the program include the US Tennis Association, Chicago Park District, the University of Arizona, the University of Texas at Arlington, the National Ability Center, and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.
“Through Sport for Community, international participants learn about our continued efforts in the United States to create opportunities for persons with disabilities in sport and all areas of life,” said Trina Bolton, program officer for the US Department of State. “The program promotes the benefits of the Americans with Disabilities Act on a global scale.”
Through its work on Sport for Community and the Global Sports Mentoring Program, the CSPS has secured more than $10 million in funding to support sport-based mentorship and advance the rights of marginalized populations, including women and people with disabilities, worldwide. Last year, the center was honored with an ESPN Sports Humanitarian Award as well as an endowment from former US Senator Bob Corker for its commitment to using sports projects for empowerment and peacebuilding.
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