Street Racket founder Marcel Straub was invited to Addis Ababa to take part in a very special week of sport and integration. The motto of the 10 years celebration of the wonderful SPAT program was “the joy of movement”. SPAT – sport and physical activity training - puts the focus on people with a disability and is run by Jos Weseman from Holland, who moved to Ethiopia after he himself was once a volunteer to support the program. The SPAT trainers visit schools and organizations for kids with a handicap on a regular basis and are disabled themselves. In Ethiopia there are over 16 million people with a handicap – what an incredible number. To make things worse, these people are outcasts and 98% of the kids have no access to education. The SPAT program wants to give these people the position and recognition in society they deserve and it uses sport and movement as an instrument for integration, inclusion, empowerment and to build up self esteem and pride.
That’s exactly what Street Racket also does and hence, from the very fist time these two organizations met, there was this shared goal and enthusiasm. Furthermore, Street Racket combines physical activities with educational content through the “learning in movement” approach and we have written an innovative teaching aid to promote mathematical and language skills while engaging in social, motivating and fun games. This aspect is a perfect extra to the SPAT concept, considering there are enormous problems to educate the disabled. So why don’t we combine the motorskill training and the fun activities with a little maths, common knowledge and language training to reduce that crucial deficit? Marcel Straub, supported by his 6 year old son Lou (who loves sports, racket and ball) took part in the main event (SPAT festival with several hundred kids and coaches with a handicap and a wonderful all day program including blind football, dance shows, crutch football, singing and lots of other activities). Several school classes learnt about Street Racket during the festival, Marcel then trained the SPAT trainers to become Street Racket instructors and conducted introductionary classes for the volunteers at the festival. Some coaches from the Swiss run Addis Guzo wheelchair program were also trained and Marcel and his boy went to the Selam Children’s Village to work and play with staff and kids. During all these activities, Lou was the best example to show how easy it is to play the game and that it’s really made for everyone. We also fixed rackets to the crutches of some players and trainers and suddenly these crutches became a very cool sporting device with a long reach to play the balls back and forth. The playing level was incredibly high and abled and disabled people enjoyed the same games together.
The SPAT program is now planning to include Street Racket as a main activity and wants to expand to Kenia, Tanzania and other countries. We are thrilled to be a part of this! One of the next steps includes the making of the rackets locally and to find interested schools and organizations to invite the SPAT trainers to introduce Street Racket. With these and other incentives we want to generate an income for the program and the people involved to secure sustainable development and impact.
Many thanks to “sport the bridge” from Switzerland (https://www.sportthebridge.ch/english/ethiopia). The NGO is also active in Ethiopia and supported our mission. We are looking forward to the upcoming shared activities with the amazing people behind Sport The Bridge. And we definitely won’t forget the times spent in Addis and the new friends we made. We will be back ….