Friday, September 5, 2014

Deven Bowler, why I joined the International Service Alumni Board

My name is Deven and I travelled to Burkina Faso with International Service from July to September 2013. During my ICS placement I lived in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso - I bet those who don’t know of this place will not be able to pronounce it!
I was part of the first cohort to set up the foundations for the Inclusive Sport project, working alongside the Burkina Faso paralympic committee.

This me with my team, I am the little one in the middle!
L-R Josh, Denis, our Team Leader Nicte, myself, Ben and Roland

In developing countries, like Burkina Faso, people living with a disability are amongst the most marginalised within society. People with disabilities are often treated badly, and many people believe that they are incapable of having a job or a place within their communities. People with disabilities are judged by others and can be shut away, families are often ashamed about their family members who have any type of impairment. At the moment there are not many institutions or places of work that will allow people with disabilities to work. It was part of our role in the Inclusive Sport team to give people with disabilities a place within society and their local communities.  

We worked to set up a partnership with local organisations and helped to deliver sessions on a range of different sports, such as wheelchair basketball, blind football, goalball and boccia. We also visited different local organisations and gave presentations about disability awareness. Our presentations consisted of pictures and videos of people in the UK who are living with disabilities. We also included pictures and videos of the paralymic games in London - to show that disability is not a weakness.

As part of my final project, my team and I set up an awareness event and invited lots of people from the local community. We hoped to showcase a few inclusive sports, we had a wheelchair basketball match taking place, and also had some activities on show for the locals to try such as goalball and boccia. The event was a huge success and we had around 100 adults and lots of children turn up. 

Two local Burkinabe wheelchair basketball teams with the ICS volunteers

Since returning to the UK I have kept in contact with International Service and jumped at the chance of becoming a member of the Alumni board.  My main reason for joining was to stay involved and hopefully be able to inspire more young people to undergo a ICS placement. My placement really has changed my approach to life,  I developed both personally and professionally and I now see things in a totally different light.  I hope being on the Alumni Board will mean I can share stories and experiences with other return volunteers.

Thanks for reading my story, I hope to see you at an Alumni event sometime soon!
Deven Bowler
Burkina Faso, July-September 2013

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