The U.S. Embassy in Moscow will host 6 youth athletes and 4 coaches from the United States for a Goalball sports exchange program, May 10-20, 2015. The exchange program is a partnership between the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), the United States Embassy in Russia and the U.S. Department of State’s division of Sports Diplomacy – SportsUnited, and has been made possible by funding from the Department of State. This exchange is part of the U.S. government’s efforts to reach out to youth populations, to facilitate people-to-people connections and to promote inclusion and diversity. The program will help build connections between Russian and American youths with visual impairment, increase their participation in goalball and expand their involvement in the larger community. Through goalball clinics and workshops, this project also seeks to bring together sports officials and leaders to discuss how to further augment local capacity. Goalball is a Paralympic sport played by athletes who are blind and visually impaired. Developed after WWII as a way to keep blinded veterans physically active, it has become the premiere team game for blind athletes nationally and internationally.
The group of U.S. goalball athletes and coaches will travel to Washington D.C. for Orientation at the Department of State before flying to Moscow. In Moscow, the group’s host, PH International and implementing partner Perspektiva, have designed a program to include multiple school visits, goalball workshops, friendly competitions and coaching education seminars for Russian youth, coaches and general public. U.S. participants will also visit local sites to experience Russian culture, history and food.
The group of 10 USABA athletes and coaches are bringing a wealth of knowledge about the sport with them to Moscow. Each of the participants plays on or coaches a team in their home region. Asya Miller, who has been playing goalball for over 16 years, has medaled in 3 Paralympic Games, and is a member of the Women’s National Goalball team says “being an athlete, coach and official in a sport and having a disability in common gives you credibility when working with other people.” They will apply this experience when visiting multiple schools for Russian youth who are blind to conduct goalball workshops where they will introduce students to the Paralympic sport and instruct them on technique.
On Saturday, May 16, the participants will compete in a friendly goalball tournament with teams from Russia and Belarus in Mytishi Town. After the tournament, teams will have time to socialize and discuss their respective cultures and challenges they face. On Sunday, May 17, the group will conduct a Coaches Workshop for Professional Fellows Program alumni who will travel back to their respective towns, outside of Moscow, to teach their communities the Paralympic sport. At the end of the program, USABA athletes and coaches will visit the All-Russia Society for the Blind and meet with representatives of the Russia Blind Sports Federation. The group will return to the United States on May 20.
About U.S. Association of Blind Athletes:
Since its founding in 1976, USABA, a multi-sport organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has reached more than 100,000 blind individuals. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of athletes with visual impairments, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. USABA’s mission is to enhance the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity. For more information, visit http://www.usaba.org.
USABA serves as the National Governing Body for the Paralympic sport of Goalball and will be sending both men’s and women’s national goalball teams to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games next year. To learn more about the sport, visit http://usaba.org/index.php/sports/#Goalball.
About U.S. Sports Diplomacy and SportsUnited:
Sports Diplomacy has emerged as an integral part of efforts to build ever-strengthening relations between the United States and other nations. Sports diplomacy uses the universal passion for sports as a way to transcend linguistic and sociocultural differences and bring people together. Participation in sports teaches leadership, teamwork and communication skills that help young people succeed in all areas of their lives. SportsUnited, the sports diplomacy division within the Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), taps into sports diplomacy’s ability to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people around the world. The Division’s use of sports as a platform exposes foreign participants to American culture while providing them with an opportunity to establish links with U.S. sports professionals and peers. In turn, Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people from other countries face today. SportsUnited has involved thousands of people from more than 100 countries in sports exchanges to do just this.
About PH International:
PH International (registered under the legal name Project Harmony, Inc.) was founded in 1985 for the purpose of cultural and educational exchanges between the then-USSR and the United States. Over the past twenty-eight years, more than 10,000 individuals have participated in PH’s international exchange programs in the U.S. and across Eurasia and the Middle East. Today, PH International’s mission is to build a strong global community by fostering civic engagement, cross-cultural learning, and increased opportunities in the digital age. PH strives towards a world where individuals and communities collaborate across borders to resolve global challenges. PH pursues this vision by conducting innovative programs for youth, professionals and communities around the world that uses in-person and online engagement, practical skills development and coalition building to support global collaboration, learning and advancement. PH is a highly experienced manager of international and domestic programs and has successfully administered more than $55 million in U.S. Government funding in the past ten years.
Perspektiva is a Russian disability non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in March of 1997. From 1994-1997, Perspektiva served as the representative office of the World Institute Disability (WID), a US-based NGO. Perspektiva aims to promote independence and an improved quality of life for persons with disabilities in the Russian community.
Since 1997, Perspektiva has worked with disability activists in more than 30 NGOs from different regions of Russia and the former Soviet Union to strengthen disability organizations, empower young people with disabilities to become active members of their communities, advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, raise awareness in the community about disability issues and promote inclusive education and open market employment. Over the last thirteen years, Perspektiva and its regional partners have helped over 100,000 people with disabilities and their families, and worked with over 10,000 state officials and professionals and more than 100 businesses throughout the country.