Eleni Kokkinou describes us her experience
as a member of the Paralympic Refugee Team
by Eleni Kokkinou,
Special Physical Education teacher in SolidarityNow, for Hosting Scheme Project “Home for Hope”
I work as a teacher of special physical education and fitness for the last 13 years since I got my degree, mainly in the disability field, but also in formal education. I joined the SolidarityNow team last summer, being responsible, along with a fellow psychologist, for the sports activities of children aged 6-12 being hosted in Theoxenia Hotel and for the creative activities of preschool and school age children.
I think that provide a child, and man in general, with equal opportunities in education is one of the most important assets for its life, and is also one of the reasons I choose to interact and mingle with socially vulnerable groups. The occupation with vulnerable groups differs from formal education, and although it might make each day a little more difficult, simultaneously it makes it stronger in happy moments.
The unforgettable moments are the ones when you see a child or athlete, conquer knowledge and evolve, as well as when we overcome various obstacles aroused, working effectively as a team.
In early summer, I was informed that we would be together with Ibrahim Al Hussein, refugee from Syria with amputated leg from a bomb and an athlete, in the “Pioneers” swim team, members of which are people with special needs. The “Pioneers” took part in the first team of refugees-athletes with special needs ever created in Paralympic Games of Rio, Brazil! Our group went under the name Independent Paralympic Athletes.
The initiative for the formation of this team, was taken by the International Paralympic Committee following the proposal by the Greek Paralympic Committee and the Chairman Mr. Fountoulaki. The joy and pride for the athletes of this special team was great since it inspired and motivated them to continue fighting in order to achieve their goals and dreams; no matter how big they are.
For me, it was a unique experience; from the support expressed on behalf of other groups from different countries for our presence, until the award given to one of my athletes. The Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award kontrak is granted to one male and one female athlete who are ambassadors of the values and importance of Paralympic movement. For Ibrahim the most touching moment was during the game as it was the dream come true; a dream that was born in Syria long before war starts.
I am so proud of Ibrahim! He achieved two individual records in freestyle swimming of 50m. and 100 meters. and he made it under the pressure of such a great game! And I mean “great”, underlying the special meaning of this word in the world of Paralympic Games.