Thai group learns a new language of ability
June 11, 2007
The National Ability Center’s (NAC) mission is going global once again.
After establishing sports and recreation programs for the disabled in countries like Chile, Spain and Korea, they are now actively working in Thailand. The month of June represents one of many steps in a year-long process which began with a visit by the NAC to Thailand last winter.
A contingent of Thai administrators and athletes arrived on American soil June 2 and will stay until June 20. Their time in Utah will be spent learning to how to establish various recreation programs, and the administration, marketing, development, strategic planning and first aid to support them.
"They’re here to get background on what we do," NAC program administrator Lauren Artesani said.
The Thai group was welcomed by Mayor Dana Williams, who presented them with a Park City flag and 2002 Olympic pins.
"Relationships in the world are not about politics& they are about people," Williams said.
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NAC’s CEO and co-founder Meeche White took the mayor’s sentiments one step further.
"[We want to] plant the seed of more sports programs for people with disabilities," White said.
With aid from a federal grant secured by White, last January, the NAC took sports equipment, wheelchairs and a group of administrators and instructors to Thailand to teach the people there how to establish a disabled sport program.
They started programs in Pattaya and Chang Mai, and welcomed representatives from both cities to Park City this week.
Samrit Chapirom, school headmaster at the Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disabilities, based in Pattaya, was excited to finally make it to the States for a first-hand look at the country and the NAC’s programs.
"I think America has many sports to offer people with disabilities," Chapirom said. "We will learn and practice and go back to develop the sports for people with disabilities.
He was also excited to learn more about U.S. culture and better ways in which to support disabled populations.
The disabled program will extend to all of the Redemptorist entities, including job placement and independent living programs.
NAC participant Shawn Wickard will travel back to Thailand in July for three months to continue to teach and coach and firmly establish the programs.
"It’s awesome to come from what I’ve been part of here in the last six years and bring the experience to these schools," Wickard said. "It’s exciting. It’s going to be hard, but it’s worthwhile."
Thai translator Natagamon Roongtim, who goes by the nickname, "Earth," said the goal is to learn about the sport and take those lessons back to Thailand.
"We want to establish the communication, the networking not only in these 20 days," Roongtim said. "It will go on."
She hopes it will also flourish in surrounding countries like Laos and Vietnam.
She also has an added interest in learning about independent living for the disabled, so she can establish better support for the severely disabled. Thus far, she has taken note of Park City’s wheelchair accessible transportation systems.
"We come here and you guys are role models," Roongtim said.
For more information on the Thailand project, visit http://www.nac1985.org .