iCount donates Vt1m assistance to para-athletes

Multi medallist parathlete Ellie Enock, Daniel Agius of iCount; Margaret Macfarlane President VPC, Liz Pechan, Treasurer VPC; Mary-Estelle Mahuk Elie Coach & Board Member, VPC. Photo: Daniel Agius

Daniel Agiuis, Managing Director of iCount, Vanuatu’s premier accounting, consulting and advisory firm, has announced funding support of 1,000,000 vatu to the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee (VPC).

For safe, contracted transport costs for Ni-Vanuatu para-athletes to and from training. It’s a big number but figures and results are what iCount understands counts.

“Our team at iCount know numbers matter,” states Daniel Agius.

“The statistics are grim when you talk about inclusion for people living with a disability in Vanuatu. We have to change attitudes by ensuring Ni-Vanuatu living with an impairment are given opportunity and access.

“We know that with inclusion comes respect. ICount’s support for bus fares will facilitate participation in a range of sporting activities, to grow health, well-being and improve self-esteem.

“Watching the film ‘Phoenix Rising’ the story of the Paralympic Games, iCount made the decision to do something. Identifying and supporting elite parathletes is a game changer.

“With sporting success regionally and internationally comes the opportunity to act as ‘Change Champions’ – to change the attitudes nationally here in Vanuatu towards our people living with an impairment. iCount is going to make sure they count,”Agius said.

“The Hidden People” is a term often used to describe people in Vanuatu with a disability. Census figures do not accurately capture the number of Ni-Vanuatu, but it is estimated that between 5% to 12% of Ni-Vanuatu have a mild to severe disability.

“Why are the numbers only estimates? When Census enumerators visit a community, parents hide their disabled family members in back rooms or in bush gardens out of shame and a feeling they have been cursed or are victims of a taboo.

“Often, children with a disability do not go to school. Often they are not taken to community events or Church. Without an education and employment skills, they do not get a job and find difficulty contributing to their families and community. They are left out and left behind.

“Too often, those of us with a disability are left in dark corners,” comments Georges Langa, Board member for Vanuatu Paralympic Committee and now a Board member for Oceania Paralympic Committee.

“Harnessing the power of sport to change community attitudes, people can see what we can do. Sport can make people look at our ability, not our disability. However, there’s another barrier just as big as an actual disability – bus fares.”

The figures speak for themselves. With 150 vatu one way to training, that’s 300 vatu for a round trip. Training several days quickly adds up to 1,000 vatu a week. If training runs for 40 weeks a year, that’s 40,000 vt per athlete annually.

“The VPC has found that trying to find bus fares is the biggest obstacle to our rapidly growing program of track and field, rowing, table tennis, seated volleyball, swimming and hockey.

It’s so fantastic we have parathletics programs now in Vila, Lakatoro, Isangel and Luganville, but we are victims of our own successful outreach and promotion.

“Many of our parathletes are young women. We have had issues with their safety so being able to contract reliable bus drivers is fantastic,” explains Margaret Macfarlane, VPC’s President. “Bus fares have been our biggest challenge until now with iCount’s generosity!,” Langa said.

Elie Enock, multi medal parathlete explains “It’s not just having a disability that prevents participation in sport. The biggest problem is the cost of transport costs – bus fares – to and from training.

“Our motto this year is ‘The Future is Accessible’ but with our bad roads and footpaths, we just cannot go to training. Most of us did not go to school so we have no jobs. How can we keep asking our communities and families for bus fares? With this donation for safe transport to and from training, iCount will make sure we count!”

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