Bridging the gap through sports

United Football, a registered Special Olympics programme was launched in Bhutan to mark the International Day for Persons with Disability

Event: Twenty-two young men entered the dusty ground of the Royal Bhutan Police in Thimphu to start a game of football.

The stage was set. Officials lined up at their respective places and the two teams dressed in blue chanted their prayers.

It was a special football match. Present in the teams were the specially abled students of Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth.

From the first whistle, players used physical gestures and hand movements to make the call for passes. At times, the specially-abled players were appealing the referee for a foul with a different sign language, which the referee, also an instructor at Draktsho could understand.

Team A won the game with seven goals to three.  The 30-minute game ended with both teams looking content and satisfied.

The first ‘United Football’ under the umbrella of United Sports, a registered programme with the Special Olympics was successfully launched for the first time in Bhutan yesterday. The sporting event allows athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to come together and play as a team.

A friendly football match was played to observe the day

A friendly football match was played to observe the day

Draktsho in collaboration with Ability Bhutan Society, Changangkha Middle Secondary School (MSS) and Lungtenzampa MSS celebrated the International Day for Persons with Disability in Thimphu yesterday.

Various cultural and athletics events were organised to observe the day where some 70 special needs persons took part in the celebration.

Draktsho’s deputy director, Deki Zam said sports are an important medium where individuals with disabilities can showcase their talents. “It’s a medium where individuals can come together with family and friends encouraging inclusion,” she said. “Empowering children and youth with various types of disabilities by giving them the right platform and opportunities are essential in enhancing their living standard.”

As part of the day, a group of 15 visually impaired individuals’ lit 1,000 butter lamps and recited prayers for the wellbeing of all the disabled individuals around the world at the Changzamtok Dema Lhakhang in Thimphu yesterday.

Coordinator of the initiative, Lhakpa Dorji said the initiative was also dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth King. “I wanted to inform those people with disabilities not to give up on life. There’s always a way forward even with such frailties,” he said.

The day was also observed at Paro with about 80 students from Wangsel Institute, a special education unit for hearing-impaired children in Paro and Drugyal Lower Secondary School.

Students displayed and sold crafts made from scraps and performed cultural programmes gathered at Paro town.

The principal of the institute, Kinzang Drukpa said the selling of handicrafts was not to generate income but to provide awareness on disabilities to the public.

According to the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan 2005, there are 21,896 people living with disabilities in the country. There are around 130 enrolled in Draktsho.

Younten Tshedup 

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