Bangladesh: Wheelchair basketball helps rebuild confidence
Four wheelchair basketball players at the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), situated in Chapain, Savar (Dhaka), give us a sneak peek at their individual journeys and the power of sport in building their mental and physical capacity to face everyday challenges.
Uzzal Mahmud, 28, had been happy with his personal and professional life till an accident left him with a spinal cord injury. Then it felt like life had turned upside down for him. "I was depressed for a long time after my injury. But when my treatment began at the CRP, I also started to realize that life doesn't end with an injury," says Uzzal.
Playing wheelchair basketball helped him overcome his challenges and aim high again. "I fell in love with the sport the day I saw a wheelchair basketball match at the CRP. When I play, I don't just feel physically stronger, but stronger mentally too," he says.
Sonia Khanam says wheelchair basketball breaks barriers. "It is not possible to do anything if us girls only stay confined to our homes. We must step out, see the world and meet other people. It will help us survive different and difficult situations in life," says Sonia, who lost a leg in a road accident. She joined the wheelchair basketball team while being treated at the CRP and credits her family for supporting her in the journey.
"If my parents hadn't supported me, I could have never played wheelchair basketball, nor could I have continued to study," she says, adding a message for all parents to support their daughters and help them fulfil their dreams.
"My goal is to win a gold medal for my country in the Paralympic Games," says Mahbub Bin Mohiuddin Bibek. Until some years ago,
Mahbub's life was on a different path. As the eldest son of the family, he had expected to take care of his family and provide financial stability. A spinal cord injury changed the course of his plans and made him wonder what lay ahead. "My injury prevented me from supporting the family financially.
However, after receiving treatment at the CRP, I got into sports like para powerlifting, badminton and wheelchair basketball," he says. Because of his exceptional performance in sports, he was offered the position of a fitness and recreation activity trainer at the CRP.
"I am thankful to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and CRP because I am now able to take care of my family with my salary and to also dream for the future," says Mahbub.
Without this sport, I couldn't have overcome my disability — Marzana Akter, 16
Marzana Akter was only 16 when she suffered a spinal cord injury. The prospect of not being able to continue her studies had a devastating effect on her, as she saw all her friends attending college, while she felt stuck. Marzana started playing wheelchair basketball during the three months she spent at the CRP for therapy.
"Now, I'm the captain of the Bangladesh women's wheelchair basketball team," she says proudly, adding that the highlight for her is that she has got readmitted to college and will continue studying. Marzana has also represented the country in international wheelchair basketball tournaments. "Without this sport, I couldn't have overcome my disability," she shares.
Dhabaleswar Nanda, manager of the ICRC's physical rehabilitation project, says the ICRC has been engaging in sports activities for people with disabilities since 2013 as a way to highlight their capabilities and transform the attitude of the community.
"At CRP, the ICRC has been supporting wheelchair basketball since 2013 and found it to be very successful. The sport is now well integrated and organized by CRP staff and is open for all service users who are willing to practice," says Nanda.
Marking the International Day of People with Disabilities, which is observed on 3 December, a wheelchair basketball camp for men was organized at the CRP in Savar, Dhaka, from 26 November – 6 December 2021.
The founder of the CRP, Valerie Taylor, its executive director, Dr. Mohammad Sohrab Hossain, general secretary of the National Paralympic Committee of Bangladesh, Er. Md. Maksudur Rahman and the ICRC's Physical Rehabilitation Programme team joined the camp on the final day.