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Sport builds confidence of Norfolk's disabled

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 May 2011

The self-esteem and confidence of dozens of adults with disabilities were given a boost this week as they got the chance to try out a range of sports for the first time.

The adult disability multi-sports festival, organised by Active Norfolk, was held at the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia on Thursday and yesterday.

Over the two days, more than 180 adults with disabilities from all over the county took part in 14 different sports including archery, dance, golf, martial arts and climbing.

It was the third time that the annual free event has been held and the organisers are building up to a bigger event next year ahead of the London Paralympics.

Ellen Vanlint, Active Norfolk’s disability officer, said: “It’s a big festival, lots of fun and we’ve had beautiful weather. Those who have taken part have really enjoyed it. New sports like the dancing and martial arts have been really popular so we will do them again. It’s been really good.”

The event was designed to give people with disabilities the opportunity to have a go at new sports but to also have fun and socialise at the same time.

It was open to people with all types of disabilities and qualified coaches from a variety of local clubs including the Norwich Fencing Club and the Norfolk Cricket Board were on hand to help participants to try out new sports.

“For a lot of people with disabilities, they only get access to a certain number of sports and this event may be the only opportunity they get to try the sports on offer,” said Miss Vanlint.

“But it’s not just about the sport, it’s as much of a social event as well. At lunchtime, we were all outside having a big picnic and we’re bringing groups from all over the county together.”

Over the last three years, Active Norfolk – a partnership organisation hosted by Norfolk County Council and funded by a number of partners including the Norfolk local authorities and Sport England – has seen the festival grow.

In the first year, there were 10 sports on offer which increased to 14 this year.

Janine Palmer, a lecturer from the College of West Anglia who had taken 32 students with complex needs to the event over the two days, said: “It’s not just about the sports, it’s about them feeling like they belong.

“Their social skills have been built up tremendously and their self-esteem and confidence.

“I love it so much because it caters for all disabilities.

“I’ve got students here who are blind, deaf and who have never ever built up any social skills and never been out in public.

“People don’t realise that they get more self-esteem and confidence through these sessions than hours and hours in the classroom.

“I’ve got two girls here today who have never taking part in a group activity before and now they are and they’re smiling and talking to people – it’s wonderful.”

Active Norfolk works to increase participation in sport and physical activity and runs a variety of courses across the county.

To find out more about the organisation or sporting events in the county, go to Active Norfolk’s website, www.activenorfolk.org

Are you leading a project to help vulnerable people in the community? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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