Text first published by Team Up
As part of the Team Up series for International Day of People with Disability, Team Up meets Nelly Ruth Leva, a Paralympian and volunteer coach for the Inclusive GymBad program in Papua New Guinea.
AN UNEXPECTED CAREER CHANGE
“As a coach with the Inclusive GymBad program I teach children gymnastics and badminton skills. I encourage people with disabilities to come out of their houses and try GymBad. I help them to come out of their comfort zone, because as a person with a disability I know that if I can do it, they can do it as well.
“I was not always an athlete. Up until three years ago, I was a student, completely focused on studying business and accounting so that I could get a good job and go to work. Then I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my arm. I did treatments, but it kept coming back. Further up my arm each time, getting close to my chest, which is dangerous. Eventually I made the choice to have my arm amputated and change my career path. Instead of going back to studying, following my surgery I was introduced to sports. First athletics, then badminton, turning me into an athlete for the first time in my life.
“I first got involved with the GymBad program as a participant and then I had the opportunity to learn how to coach and I began teaching my own children and children in my community how to play. I feel amazing when I am teaching children how to play. It’s a wonderful job and I love it.
“The GymBad program is important because it is helping children and people with a disability to get involved in sport and be active and healthy. The program includes activities that are fun and can be done in groups. Different ages can play together – young children and adults, boys and girls, all trying new things and playing together. When participating in activities people with disabilities play alongside able-bodied participants. By participating and watching the program, participants and community members develop increased respect for each other.
“The program has had a big impact on me. Coaching has given me stability and I have learned how to communicate with children. Participating in the program has shown me my potential. I can play, teach, and help people become interested in badminton, gymnastics and the program.
“GymBad has also given me the opportunity to be confident as a public speaker, gain confidence as a coach who can now deliver sessions independently, and improve my communication skills. As a leader and role model in my community, I am helping people to see that they can do anything. If I can do it, they can do it too!”
The Inclusive GymBad program is delivered in partnership by Badminton Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea Gymnastics Federation, Badminton Oceania, Oceania Gymnastics Union and Motivation Australia.