What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
Without question the defining moment that led to the need for this important project was the January 26, 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 250,000 and led to permanent disabilities for tens of thousands of its citizens. Haiti has long been among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and this disaster has further compounded what was already a very bad situation by the near total destruction of its major city and national capital, Port-a-Prince. The media reports and images seen on virtually every televised news channel pointed to the unparalleled death and destruction created by the earthquake. These images were indelibly etched into the minds and hearts of our organization. Having long been involved in the disability rights movement, the leadership of BlazeSports immediately took action to determine how the organization could provide its services to assist in the relief effort. We met with officials at the Department of State and USAID who were familiar with our work in Africa and the Middle East and acted on their suggestions. A trip in mid-April to Haiti allowed us to establish relationships with the leadership of the National Paralympic Committee of Haiti, the Director General of the Ministry of Sport and the Secretary of State for Inclusion of People with Disabilities. We traveled to many parts of the island nation under the guidance of the Secretary General of the National Paralympic Committee to observe the devastation and assess the needs of persons with disabilities in the numerous tent communities. This visit further solidified our commitment to lend our expertise to benefit the significant numbers of people with disabilities we met who are truly the poorest of the poor. Our observations during the visit were that Darwin's theory on "survival of the fittest" was quite accurate as persons with disabilities faced the greatest challenges of survival in this sea of devastation. There was competition in virtually every aspect of daily life for all Haitians and persons with physical disabilities were disadvantaged at every turn making them the most vulnerable segment of the population. Three months after the earthquake, many people with disabilities were still without shelter. Those that found shelter were frequently relegated to the most undesirable locations within the tent community...the sections that flooded when it rained requiring then to sleep on piles of broken concrete in order to stay dry as the water flowed through their shelter. Likewise, when food was delivered to the tent communities people with disabilities generally found themselves at the back of long lines because they could not move quickly enough. If they were fortunate enough to receive food they were then vulnerable to having the food that they did not immediately consume stolen from them by their able-bodied neighbors.
Our meetings with government and NGO officials made it quite clear that effective rehabilitation services were not being provided and likely would not be provided to sufficiently serve the overwhelming needs of the newly injured population. We observed vast numbers of youth and young adults with leg and foot amputations. We met with many persons who had lived with disabilities prior to the quake in order to understand how the current situation had impacted their lives. It was very clear that they, too, faced a very different and more challenging existence due to the environmental conditions offered by mountains of debris, impassable roads and lack of governmental services.
Upon our departure for the US, we committed to return and do everything in our power to make the lives of the people we met more tolerable and to bring a bit of joy to their hearts through sport and recreational activities that would also serve as a means of physical rehabilitation. The opportunity to positively impact the lives of Haitians with physical disabilities through football/soccer related programs with funding from Nike/Ashoka/Changemakers would truly be our greatest honor.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
As the Executive Director, Carol Mushett oversees the operations, strategic management and development of BlazeSports America. Carol has over 30 years experience in Paralympic sport, therapeutic recreation, rehabilitation services, higher education and non-profit leadership.
Carol has a Master’s degree in Education and has been certified in the following fields: certified social worker, certified therapeutic recreation specialist, certified sports counselor and certified child custody evaluator. Carol was twice elected by the International Paralympic Committee General Assembly (assembly of nations) as the Technical Officer and Chairman of the Sports Council and served two terms of office from 1997-2004 during which time Carol oversaw the sport technical operations, sport rules, qualification processes, and Games development for the Nagano, Sydney, Salt Lake City, and Athens Paralympic Games. Carol is one of only five Americans to have received the Paralympic Order which is the highest honor bestowed by the International Paralympic Committee. Carol also served on the Board of Trustees for the Salt Lake Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee.
Having directed numerous international projects, grants and lectured in over 20 nations, Carol is known worldwide as an expert in disability sport and recreation. Carol began her career in the Atlanta area as the first therapeutic recreation specialist hired in public schools and started the DeKalb County School System adapted sports program along with several colleagues. Carol is widely published and a much sought after speaker on topics such as Paralympic sport, classification of athletes with disability, community reintegration, psychological adjustment to disability, and peacebuilding through sport.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
Through another organization or company
If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company
Sport for Social Change Network - CARE International and others