Monday, November 11, 2013

The technical challenges of West Africa

Recently the team moved into a new office, equipped with high-speed internet in an environment conducive to advancing our research efforts. However, there was and still is no electricity, which also means no internet connection. The difficulties in getting connected stem from problems with the national electricity board and remind us of some inconvenient realities of working in West Africa. Thankfully, with fairly regular access to the International Service HQ, a positive attitude and the use of the electricity in other parts of our work premises, we managed to advance our project. 

We completed the last of the data collection visits to all the disability sports clubs in Burkina Faso. The data collection phase was started by the previous cohort and it was down to us to finish the job. We went to the Burkinabé Association for Handicapped Persons (ABUSHIS), one of the strongest clubs in the country. ABUSHIS trains Lassane Gasbeogo, the hand-cyclist who competed for Burkina at London 2012. Witnessing their intense wheelchair basketball training session clearly showed clubs could be well organised and capable of training paralympians, despite the economic and social realities of the country. ABUSHIS had a small office in the national stadium and professional equipment clearly donated by other international paralympic teams, such as Team Canada. The well-financed ABUSHIS also highlighted the inequality between clubs that we have witnessed from our few visits, and how our team's work must identify where the financing for inclusive sport should be directed. Furthermore, we started individual interviews with the Federation members. This is in the context of our upcoming focus group and aims to gauge the existing capacities of the members to run the Federation. We spoke to members from Ouagadougou and Koudougou (Burkina Faso's third city) about their backgrounds and training they have received and feel they need. We hope to evaluate how our ICS team can reinforce the Federation by providing training, particularly with regard to information technology, social media and English language.

Two athletes from ABUSHIS. Lassane Gasbeogo, on the right, competed at London 2012

An example of the high quality equipment at ABUSHIS

The past two weeks has also seen a re-launch of the Federation/National Paralympic Committee's Facebook (facebook.com/burkinafasonationalparalympiccommittee) and Twitter (@BurkinaFasoNPC) channels. Created initially by the previous cohort, we're actively posting interesting content relevant to inclusive sport in Burkina Faso. Feel free to like/follow us! Through our bilingual (FR/EN) communications, we hope to raise awareness by: a) posting content related to disability and inclusive sport; b) communicating the messages of the Federation to a wider audience; and c) engaging in relevant debates and interacting with other related organisations. The next phase of our project will consist of synthesising the data collected in view of completing the research paper which aims to provide stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of handicapped sports in Burkina Faso.

Finally, we had the pleasure of presenting a range of gifts (mainly stationery and sports clothing) from two of our UK partners, Notts County Football Club and Npower, to ABPAM. We had a small ceremony at which the Federation's President Guy Yameogo was present, along with some of the students at ABPAM, and we thank our partners for their continued support.

The children of ABPAM receive their gifts. Guy Yameogo, President of the National Paralympic Committee, is on the left.

Three members of our Paralympic Research Team stand with an ABPAM pupil and Notts County FC shirt.

In addition to the progress made on our project, the team continued to enjoy the fascinating and welcoming Burkinabé culture. We visited the Artisanal Village. Living in the continent's capital for artisanship, it was great to see the myriad of different mediums through which Burkinabé artists express themselves. Indeed one of ICS's partners here is Tigoung Nouma, a cooperative of disabled artisans, and just as with participating in sport, living with a disability often does not hinder creativity. Underdevelopment clearly doesn't stop top draw artisanship and the Village puts on show a range of ornaments, drawings and jewellery in an array of boutiques and workshops.

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