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  • Writer's pictureJohn Roberts

Learning from the peerless inspiration of parathletes

“Whenever the sh*t hits the fan, then our movement is going to come around and say hey, you're not doing this to us. We're going have our games and we're going to get our message out there and we're going to help change society and make this planet a better place to live in."

- Philip Craven, former president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

Last night I watched the inspirational film Rising Phoenix. It tells the story of the Paralympic movement, showcasing some of the most wonderful, determined athletes.

Part of the film covers the existential threat to the Paralympics movement in the run up to Rio 2016, when a funding crisis led their CEO, Xavier Gonzalez, to pronounce, “if these games don’t happen, we’re done.” But, there was no way they were going to lie down, as illustrated by Philip Craven quote at the top of this page.

Yet the challenges they faced as a group were, perhaps, as nothing to those mountains faced by each of the athletes, all of whom overcome the seemingly impossible to achieve their dreams.

You cannot fail to be inspired, shed a tear and learn from watching Rising Phoenix and the Paralympic movement, and if you haven’t yet, watch it.

My son, Joseph, and his peers with significant learning disabilities face their own, different mountains to climb, like learning to communicate. Their challenges to leading a "meaningful life" are enormous. Perhaps they won't achieve one of the original goals behind the original Stoke Mandeville Paralympics of helping paralysed war veterans to "contribute to society by becoming tax payers". But there are so many other ways to contribute, through love, purpose, fun and learning. Joseph has taught me more about what's really important than anyone else over 50 years.

During lockdown, Mike Scammell and I have bitten the bullet and created a non-profit organisation called Show Me Community Interest Company. Our goal is to help kids with learning difficulties to lead a better life. We will do this by adopting a neuro-scientific approach to the use of technology, particularly touchscreen devices and apps, in their education.

Perhaps we’re a bit like the IPC in the way we intend to represent those kids to the world of technology, who in many cases don’t even have a voice, never mind being able to take part in organised sports.

And whilst most of our discussions in setting up Show Me CIC, have been immensely positive, others have thrown up some of the hurdles – or mountains – that stand in our way, including:

  • You’ll never raise sufficient funds to cover your objectives

  • It’s too complicated

  • You can’t obtain meaningful data in special education

  • It takes many years to introduce the lastest neuro-science into the classroom.

I will address how we aim to overcome each of those in a separate post, but it was those ‘mountains’ that watching Rising Phoenix brought to my mind. It humbled and inspired me to show just a fraction of the determination of those athletes and all of the steel of Philip Craven to overcome them. No excuses.

So, please don't tell me we can't achieve our goals. And if you feel the same, maybe let us know how you might help (see here for how).

Or maybe you could contribute a few quid to our GoFundMe campaign to help us over our first hurdle of raising start up funding (click here).

And you might also share this post to spread the word.

Whatever you do, WATCH RISING PHOENIX.

And if you do, maybe think about this post and come back to contribute a fiver to help us to find our feet and start to run...

* Lead picture with thanks to Seth Kane - *

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