social cohesion & integration
I’mPOSSIBLE: A changing force from Impossible to Possible
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From IMPOSSIBLE to I’mPOSSIBLE
In abled-bodied people’s eyes, disability is often seen as a limitation, a burden or an exclusion and people with disabilities are perceived as not in a position to achieve major things, above all if related to sport. However, Para athletes have proven that having disabilities is not synonymous of being unable. Through their performances, as well as their will, their sense of effort and the pleasure they feel in accomplishing great things in life, they are an amazing source of inspiration and strength for all. Contrary to common belief, in the word “Paralympics”, “Para” stands for “parallel”, meaning “equal to”, not “paraplegic”.
TV and on-site audience of the Paralympic contests have been increasing tremendously over the last editions of the Games. Paralympic athletes impress because they go beyond the limits. Paralympic values such as courage, determination, inspiration and equality have the power to change the world!
The programme’s name ‘I’mPOSSIBLE’ is inspired by an iconic moment from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. During the Closing Ceremony, the word ‘Impossible’ appeared floating from the roof the stadium. Paralympic Rowing champion Alexey Chuvasev climbed a 15-meter long rope to reach the top of the lettering and dropped an apostrophe between the letters ‘I’ and ‘m’, changing it to ‘I’mPOSSIBLE’ and showing the world that people can achieve anything they want.
The International Paralympic Committee, driver of the programme
I’mPOSSIBLE is the International Paralympic Committee’s global Paralympic education programme, with funding from the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre and Foundation for Global Sport Development, and in close collaboration with the Japanese Paralympic Committee.
I’mPOSSIBLE may also contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on “Quality Education” that aims at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. It is also one of the key factors in updating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“We are delighted that youngsters around the globe will learn more about the wonders of the Paralympic Movement. Through engaging, educational activities, I’mPOSSIBLE will help continue changing society’s perceptions toward people with impairment across the globe and will support national Paralympic committees in their mission to promote the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration, and equality.” said Andrew Parsons, IPC president.
How it works
IPC member organisations, National Paralympic Committees or organising committees are invited to contact the IPC if they are interested in implementing I’mPOSSIBLE. The IPC provides the toolkit and other necessary teaching resources. Several countries such as Japan, Luxembourg, Peru, Georgia, Cameroon, Grenada, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Singapore and Zambia, have already implemented the programme.
The programme is flexible and can be adapted to the individual circumstances of schools and other youth organisations around the world. Schools can choose how to deliver the programme according to the resources and time they have available. Activities are cross-curricular and could fit into lessons on Physical Education, Sociology, Geography, Literacy, Personal Social Health Education, etc.
In terms of school and sport material, the programme’s designers have made sure that modules are achievable whatever the school resources are. Access to digital devices is an asset but is not required. The practical Para sport units require access to basic sports equipment and appropriately sized indoor or outdoor playing areas; however, there are also suggestions provided for low-cost/no-cost do-it-yourself (DIY) alternatives to make sport equipment.
As an educational programme, I’mPOSSIBLE provides teachers with full toolkits including activities differentiated for younger and older learners. The overall programme targets the 6 to 18-year-old learners. Two main themes articulated around thirteen lessons for learners aged 6-12 and ten lessons for learners aged 13-18 are developed: Paralympic values and Paralympic sports. The kit includes a teacher lesson plan, a learning-facing resource, an evaluation task, a series of suggested discussion questions, extension activities and homework tasks.
The programme is based on a highlight on INCLUSION. Participating in sport is a right. Everybody, including people with a disability, is entitled to participate. The development of Para sports allows more and more people with a disability to participate in meaningful sports, competitions and activities with or without adapted practice. Inclusion is not only the core message of the programme, it is also the way it works as everyone can play, modifications can be made to include everyone, and Para sports are available. The aim is to include all learners, whatever their ability, culture or background. Teachers are invited to focus on abilities, not disabilities; to remove physical and social barriers to participation; create an environment that is accessible to all; and modify or alter the way in which activities are presented and played.
A life-changing experience
At the end of the day, participating in the programme becomes a life-changing experience.“I started looking at people in a different way. I have a different view now not only toward people with disabilities, but also all other humans. There is a possibility that one day one of us won’t be able to walk anymore. Or maybe one of us won’t be able to see anymore,” says Renat Binatov, one of the I’mPOSSIBLE drawing contest winners in Georgia. Not only Paralympians become role models for these children thanks to their achievements, but students participating in the programme also become role models in turn. What children learn thanks to the programme is that disability is not synonymous of limits. “The ongoing (I’mPOSSIBLE) event had a very positive influence on raising awareness of our schoolteachers and students. Most importantly, the winner of the competition (Binatov) has become an example for others and interest in this subject has dramatically increased. People have started to have interest, they are willing to do something, they have identified the need”, says School’s director Shorena Khukhua, Georgia.
I’mPOSSIBLE and Tokyo 2020
As a successful case study, I’mPOSSIBLE was launched in Japan in February 2017 in collaboration with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organising Committee, Japanese Paralympic Committee and the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre. This partnership has already helped to distribute teaching materials to over 36000 schools across Japan and will continue with teacher training and further schools’ engagements in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The programme has been added as part of the education program of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.
It was initially foreseen that, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony, the IPC would mark the presentation of a prestigious new award to schools and Paralympians who are making significant contributions to a more inclusive world.
For the first time, three schools – two from Japan and one from overseas – that have fully utilised the IPC’s I’mPOSSIBLE education programme – would be recognised during the Closing Ceremony, which was originally scheduled on 6 September 2020. Two Paralympians – one woman, one man – would also receive awards in recognition of their work in contributing to the IPC’s vision of making an inclusive world through Para sport. All schools in Japan that are implementing the programme were eligible to enter the I’mPOSSIBLE Award and were encouraged to submit their applications. Let’s hope that this programme will be maintained as foreseen in 2021!
The spotlight that is foreseen at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games will with no doubt increase visibility on the initiative and encourage other countries to join and use the Paralympic values to help change the world and build a more inclusive society.
three questions for andrew parsons, ipc president
1. I’MPOSSIBLE IS A GREAT PROGRAMME WITH AN EFFICIENT MESSAGE. WHAT ARE THE RESULTS SO FAR IN TERMS OF IMPACT (NUMBER OF SCHOOLS, CHILDREN INVOLVED) AND WHAT IS THE EXPECTED TARGET FOR THE FUTURE?
As of June 2020, 36 countries from all over the world have signed agreements to implement the programme. In the past two years since the launch of the programme, 215,976 learners from 405 schools were reached globally. I’mPOSSIBLE is the official education programme of the Paralympic Movement and is a resource for NPCs and organising committees. In the years to come, our target is to have all these organisations that need such a programme to be sustainably implementing I’mPOSSIBLE.
2. PARALYMPIC ATHLETES ARE AMAZING ROLE MODELS AS THEY PROVE THAT DISABILITY DOESN’T MEAN INABILITY. WHAT ARE THE MAIN MESSAGES THAT REACH OUT TO THE CHILDREN PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAMME?
Through I’mPOSSIBLE, the IPC aims to inspire and excite young people and demonstrate to them that with determination, courage and inspiration they can, like Para athletes, achieve the unthinkable in their lives. We challenge their perceptions and attitudes towards people with a disability, thereby helping to increase inclusion through Para sport.
3. IN TIMES OF COVID-19, HOW HAS IPC BEEN CREATIVE IN FIGHTING AGAINST ISOLATION AND ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE? WERE KEY PARALYMPIC AMBASSADORS MOBILISED TO SPREAD MESSAGES?
Since most sport competitions were postponed or cancelled, the IPC has created a new regular flow of communications to the media, members and stakeholders. The content plan was revamped, with a greater focus on athletes’ stories, live conversations on social channels and re-live streaming of past Paralympic events, encouraging athletes and our audience to stay active and spread positive messages.