Siem Reap’s first-ever wheelchair sports centre opened its doors last week, welcoming 20 people for a training session in which participants could learn the rules of wheelchair basketball, and basic methods to maneuver on the court. All players came from Siem Reap province, and most have a disability as a result of landmines or the polio virus.
The opening of the wheelchair sports centre is part of XLability, a program for social integration for people with disability run by Soulcial Trust and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The centre is also open to people without disabilities, and a few able-bodied individuals took part in the first training session.
“It was a challenging two hours, and I learned a lot” explains Muy Bel Seu, director of local NGO Khmer Independent Life Team (KILT), which is part of the program. “We practiced skills like dribbling a basketball, and at the end we had a match between the four different teams, which was the best part because we could put everything we learned to the test”, he continues.
The weekly training sessions take place Friday evenings at the ICF Campus behind the Phum Baitang Hotel. Every two weeks, the ICRC will send players from the ladies’ wheelchair basketball team in Battambang to help train the Siem Reap players. The ICRC donated ten wheelchairs, specifically designed for wheelchair basketball, to the program.
Participants at the first training session included individuals involved with local disability NGOs Angkor Association for the Disabled (AAD), Khmer Independent Life Team (KILT) and Genevieve’s Fair Trade Village.
“It is our hope that we can soon introduce other sports such as wheelchair rugby, tennis and volleyball”
“While this first training session is focused on wheelchair basketball, it is our hope that we can soon introduce other sports such as wheelchair rugby, tennis and volleyball”, explains Genni Low, Program Director at the Soulcial Trust.
The Soulcial Trust and its French partner, XLability, are also arranging a 2-week visit by wheelchair rugby teams based in France and India to train the Cambodian players. The training will take place in November, and include a classifier affiliated with the International Wheelchair Rugby Association, who will help with the training and classification of players. As part of the exchange program, the wheelchair basketball players will also train the French and Indian rugby players on their discipline.
“We are grateful to have this collaboration with the ICRC and the ICF, which made this all possible,” explains Michael Barrett, Director of The Soulcial Trust. “We welcome others to join us, whether it is an individual who is able bodied, or people with a disability, anyone interested in joining wheelchair sports can become a part of the game”.
For further information about wheelchair basketball contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information about the Soulcial Trust and the XLability program, please contact email@example.com or +855 61 221 105.