My EVS encounter with ABLED

Hi, I’m Bruno, 28, from Portugal. In this post I will share my experience meeting a Paralympic team in Kraków and having fun playing Boccia with students from a special school.

On the 22nd of April, me and other volunteers agreed to meet with physically disabled athletes who had just finished the marathon happening that day. We had the opportunity to interview the winner of the race, Rafał Szumiec. Even though I had to wait for a transcript of the recorded interview to actually know his replies to our questions (was held in polish), it was very empowering to peer into the mind of a person who suffered a crushing blow that would defeat lesser men, but not him… the finishing strike was his to deliver.

Rafał was a professional cyclist before the accident which robbed him of mobility from the waist down. So this was a man with a love for competitive sport, who was driven to excel and not resign to 2nd places. This defining features remained unchanged after the accident.

This strong willed man shared with us that his main concern was how to rebound quickly and return to competitive sport. He adapted to the whims of fate and got proficient in other sport modalities, namely handbike, mono-ski and wakeboard. He’s since participated in several competitions all over Europe and co-founded VeloAktiv, along with Katarzyna Rogowiec, a sports training group for Paralympic athletes, where mutual support, camaraderie and tough training sessions take place.

The fact that he achieved 1st place in Cracovia Marathon was not at all surprising, given his dedication to what he does. I saw in him a man that has come to terms with the fragility and unpredictability of the human condition, but nonetheless able to draw forth from a soul not at all diminished, but forged by fire.

Sometime after I had the chance to participate in a school event where volunteers and special needs students came together to play Boccia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boccia). It was certainly fun to play in 2 vs 2, without any need to “hold back”, since these students were well versed in the game and also due to this being a sport where mobility is not quite so important as intuitive understanding of the physics at play. In this way, with assistance from another person and with the aid of a special launching ramp, the student can give instructions regarding positioning of said ramp and finally “throw it” where intended. One of the students, Konrad, was particularly good at it and it was a joy to be paired with him.

All in all, I believe everybody got something out of the experience. Games in general are (mostly) always a great way to bring people together, foster co-operation and realize individual contribution as complementary to team effort in the pursuit of common objectives.

Due to the limitations these students have to live with, there can be a tendency towards isolation from the “outside world”, so I’m sure they appreciate opportunities when they can interact with people other than their immediate circle and transcend interpersonal barriers with something as simple as a game of Boccia.

Fun & easy ways to get better in English

ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF LEARNING ENGLISHBelieve it or not, there are plenty of ways to learn every day something new. Let’s take an English language for example.

Even though English lessons are full of interesting materials, games, videos and songs, sometimes it can be very tiring to to learn all the grammar rules that are written in the plan. After few months of being a volunteer here in school, I noticed one interesting thing. Students who are playing computer games are very good in English for their age. They were more confident to start a conversation and their vocabulary is wider. Maybe their grammar knowledge is not the best, but they are not afraid to talk and to make mistakes. We all know that the mistakes are one of better ways to learn. Over time, with help of computer games, children can develop other skills, like memory, fast decision-making and social interaction.

There are also other ways to learn English. Listening to music, reading books and articles, watching films and TV series in English is great way of learning language. In fact, that’s where most of my vocabulary comes from. I like watching TV series and that’s how I learned a lot of English phrases. Also, my pronunciation got better. Besides this, some songs helped me to remember some grammar rules and how to spell some words. For example, I was looking for the lyrics of the song “Soldier Of Fortune” so many times that I had to learn that the word “Soldier” is written like that, not “Solider” which I thought before. Thanks to the song “Simply The Best” I remembered that article “the” always goes before superlative.

So, my advice to the children would be to watch their favorite films, TV series and cartoons in English, to listen to the music in English and to try to understand the lyrics and over time the improvement will be visible.

By Natalija from Serbia