In the fall of 2014 ITD conducted a program for fourteen coaches, physical education teachers, and disability workers from Azerbaijan in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. The Azerbaijanis took part in activities to promote their skills in adapting sports for youth with disabilities. The next phase of this grant project is to send an American counterpart delegation of six to Azerbaijan in January 2016.
ITD's Azerbaijani partner organization on this project is Sport for Development (S4D), a Baku-based non-profit organization dedicated to establishing disability sports programs.
Azerbaijani and American participants will develop “action plans” which will result in projects they implement on their respective returns home. These projects will lead to improved access to sports for youth with disabilities, and an increased awareness among the general public of the abilities of those with disabilities.
Stateside Component (Fall 2014. During the 3-week U.S. program, the Azerbaijani participants were actively involved in learning, sports, and social activities with American disability professionals. Lectures provided participants with U.S. historical and social background related to disability, and to disability sport and recreation. Discussions with disability and sports professionals stimulated thought about potential new or improved services back home. And visits to disability organizations and schools provided direct contact with youth with disabilities and the programs that serve them.
Azerbaijan Component (January 2015) A U.S. counterpart delegation traveled to Azerbaijan for two weeks, engaging in activities comparable to the stateside
program. The Americans supported Azerbaijani alumni/ae in implementing their action plan projects.
By the end of this project, American and Azerbaijani participants had:
• been exposed to a variety of disability sports professionals and organizations in one another's countries,
• held open discussions about the rights of people with disabilities and about how to help achieve these rights,
• experienced each other's broader culture and society,
• developed lasting relationships within, between, and beyond the two traveling delegations,
• developed and implemented action plan projects.
Now that the bilateral exchanges have been completed, Azerbaijani and U.S. alumni are continuing to address the goals of the program through virtual interaction and support in a variety of ways, including plans to develop in Azerbaijan a therapeutic equestrian program, and improved services to children with intellectual disabilities.
This International Sports Initiative was funded by SportsUnited, a division of the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. It is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Baku, and by Azerbaijan's National Paralympic Committee.