Children's rights and adapted sport: a reality of hope
The UN officially celebrates World Children's Day on November 20, the day in which, in 1959, the Children's Rights Declaration was approved at the General Assembly. On that same date, but in 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Children that Portugal ratified on September 21, 1990.
Besides June 1, this is the day that celebrates the younger ones and the progress made in defending their rights. This applies to all areas, such as sports, namely adapted sports for children with disabilities, who naturally need even more attention and protection. The same goes for children coming from challenging social backgrounds, for whom sports play a fundamental role for inclusion.
Team sports: from integration to inclusion
Collective sports have been a fundamental pillar in the integration of children with disabilities, and their families, into society. This is an area in which Portugal stands out, as the results of its Paralympic athletes show.
The current philosophy to socially include people with disabilities is to devalue weaknesses and enhance skills or strengths. Sports practice for this particular population follows similar principles, adapting modalities or creating all-new modalities that play to their specific competencies, thus having a vital role in their development and autonomy.
Disabled or Adapted Sports apply to individuals who, due to their disabilities, are unable to practice sports without specific adaptations. However, this does not imply a lack of competitiveness, regulations, or organization.
Practicing sports is a right that assists all citizens, regardless of their condition. All the way back to the 1988 European Charter for Sport for All Disabled People, the European Council has long recognized sports as "a privileged means for education, readaptation, enhancement of leisure and social integration".
Again, the same thinking applies to kids who face social exclusion for economic reasons: sports are a great equalizer. With collective sports, your self-worth is based on your skills and commitment to the team, not your social background.
Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa and Portugal Rugby Youth Festival: a communion of values
As we celebrate World Children's Day, we recall two projects with which Move Sports has been actively engaged in the context of the rugby tournaments we regularly organize, specifically the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival.
The first of these projects results in a the long-standing partnership between the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival and Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, which is based upon a communion of values between the institution and the sports tournament. Dedicated to good causes, social support, and solidarity, Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa recognizes in rugby, and in youth sport in general, the foundation of fundamental values for young people, such as resilience, team spirit, and discipline.
Working with kids from challenging social backgrounds, each year Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa prepares several actions for the young people under its tutelage. A first group of young people has access to a “rugby clinic”, where they will learn the fundamental techniques and values of this sport and, later, enjoy another memorable experience: they join some of the participating teams and get to have direct and permanent contact with coaches and players.
A second group has access to the backstage of this great event, having the possibility of undergoing a professional integration experience, becoming part of the tournament’s volunteer team working in the various management dimensions of the event organized by Move Sports.
Portugal Rugby Youth Festival: a long time relationship with the OH GUI team
Another such project is the OH GUI team, an adapted rugby squad from Cascais which has already made rugby history and has been transforming the lives of many individuals for years now: players with disabilities from the Center for Rehabilitation and Integration of the Disabled (CRID), athletes from the Cooperative for the Education and Rehabilitation of Disabled Citizens of Cascais (CERCICA) and other institutions, thus making an impact not only on these athletes but also on everyone that deals with these young people and adults in their everyday daily lives.
The Oh Gui program emerged in 2012 from a partnership between the Cascais and Estoril parish councils, Cascais Rugby, CERCICA, and CRID. This program aims to provide an opportunity for athletes from those institutions to practice the sport regularly, promoting physical and mental health as fundamental and inseparable aspects of health. It seeks to develop and enhance values such as loyalty, teamwork, camaraderie, self-esteem, concentration, and discipline (among others), endowing athletes with essential skills to other contexts in their lives. In addition to the development of psychomotor skills, athletes benefit from a contribution to their social integration and inclusion.
A Cascais Rugby coach guides the training and helps transmit the values of the sport to around 20 athletes, with assistance from a specialized coach from each of the involved institutions.
The OH GUI team has been showcasing their tremendous work at every year's edition of the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival. In 2019, the OH GUI played a demonstration match in front of the thousands of fans in the stands of Lisbon University Stadium. In the end, amidst the applause, they were the protagonists of one of the most emotional moments of that weekend: they performed the "haka" and were soon joined by the young players from Australia's Iron Armour Academy, in a wonderful demonstration of sportsmanship.
The ambition of this program is to replicate the project in institutions in other locations so that one day adapted rugby can have a national tournament with 10 to 20 teams.
Rugby is for all
More critical than promoting rugby, it is essential to break the stigma surrounding the sport and citizens with disabilities or coming from challenging social backgrounds. This is a modality that, in essence, values everyone and gives athletes the feeling of belonging.