According to Vision2020 Australia, currently blindness rates in Indigenous adults are six times the rate in mainstream with low vision rates at 2.8 times the rate in mainstream. Major causes of blindness in Indigenous adults are cataract, optic atrophy, refractive error, diabetic eye disease and trachoma. Eye health is closely associated with other aspects of poor health and wellbeing in communities including chronic disease such as diabetes and trachoma due to poor hygiene, falls in older people to name a few.
A small charity has big plans to connect the blind and vision impaired Indian community and the indigenous Australian community in South Australia by using the Indian sport of Kabaddi.
The project is aimed to be a unique program that offers health checks, cultural exchange opportunities, personal and social skills and early intervention with vision loss for indigenous communities in the APY Lands…all through the medium of sport.
Rajini Vasan, Chief Executive of Eye Play Sport, has been collaborating with various service partners including Global Community Sports, Vision Institute India and University of South Australia, to name a few, in developing this ambitious project that will herald a new wave of internationalism at a grassroots level.
Eye Play Sport or EPS (formerly The Blind sporting Council) is a registered charity with a DGR status providing opportunities for blind and vision impaired Australians to participate in sport and recreation. Established in 1996 by 3 blind Paralympians, the Organizations still continues to work with a dedicated team of volunteers and sponsors in ensuring that 90 cents from every dollar raised directly go into funding programs and services for their client group without any overheads or administrative expenses, a huge achievement by any standards!
Their programs include funding training, equipment and participation for elite athletes, teams and blind sporting clubs as well as grassroots level programs for blind and vision impaired children, youth, even the elderly.
“Australia has approximately 520,000 blind and vision impaired people. They don’t all have big dreams of playing for Australia. Some have a smaller dream of simply playing. But when you’re blind, even the smallest of dreams cost money. At Eye Play Sport, we work to ensure that blind and vision impaired Australians can enjoy the benefits that the rest of us take for granted “says Raj.
The passionate CEO is now focussed on rolling out the Kabaddi Project in 2016, The Year of Olympics.
“2-3 members of the Jaipur Pink Panthers (Pro Kabaddi League) will be invited over to engage with the community and teach the community about the game and how to play the game, they will also help “train the trainers” for the APY lands. A team of selected players from the community will then be sent to compete in India, after a tournament type event” Raj said.
The delivery of the project will make vision checks for all young people wanting to take part mandatory. Recruitment and training will also take place on school grounds to encourage attendance and participation. The project will include informal workshops on exercise and nutrition, cultural exchange and interaction, with a final incentive of going to India to play with league teams there as well as experiencing intercultural and international exchange, increasing self confidence, social skills, employability skills and forging strong friendships.
On being asked about the choice of sport, Raj responded “Kabaddi is a popular Indian sport; the sport is easily adaptable and can be made to suit nearly any environment. The sport has already been adapted to suit vision impaired competitors in India. The sport does not require any physical equipment; therefore it is very cost effective to establish and also to maintain. The physicality of the game and skills required such as breath control, dodging and weaving etc are all transferable skills that the participants can use effectively in any sport of their choice afterwards”.
EPS will partner with Global Community Sports in India and Australia for the delivery of this project. The project has already received in – principle support from The University of South Australia who will assist in delivering specific workshops on health, nutrition and exercise science. India Vision Institute and Pink Panthers have confirmed their involvement in facilitating accommodation, cultural experiences as well as league games in India.
EPS is currently seeking funding through grants and sponsorships with an aim to roll out the project in June 2016. This pilot project will be documented and evaluated at every stage with the aim to create an ongoing sustainable model that can be bundled and replicated across various states and sports.
For further information on the project and sponsorship enquiries, please contact Rajini Vasan, CEO EYE PLAY SPORT on [email protected]