In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Danny Glover and Edin Dzeko play ball for children with disabilities
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
By Marissa Buckanoff
From dodgeball with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Danny Glover to hand-in-hand footie against the national team, it's all about ability this summer, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 23 August 2013 – It's all about ability this summer, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through a series of sporting events involving children living with and without disabilities, UNICEF is promoting the spirit of sport to overcome prejudices and promote everyone's abilities.
As part of the events, hundreds of children from 19 different cities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina arrived in Sarajevo on Tuesday 20 August to play a friendly game of dodgeball with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Danny Glover. The aim was to help raise awareness and support for vulnerable children, particularly those living with disabilities, with the goal of ensuring social inclusion for all children.
According to Mr. Glover, "Children with disabilities and their communities both benefit if we all focus on what these children can achieve, rather than what they cannot."
Football, hand in hand
Earlier in the month, the Sarajevo school for the visually impaired had hosted a symbolic ball game, in which children living with and without disabilities played with UNICEF National Ambassador Edin Dzeko and his popular friends from the Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team. Hand in hand, children demonstrated their ability to compete with the best.
At one point in the game, Mr. Dzeko's team wore blindfolds to understand the children's perspective better while playing the game. Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team goalkeeper Asmir Begovic said, "It was fun to step in their shoes and see how hard it is to play the game. I enjoyed that, and it was truly a special day for us."
Seeing the professional players struggle on the field, the audience laughed and cheered on the children.
Partners to shift perception
UNICEF is partnering with the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the campaign with the goal to change public perception about children living with disabilities so that they are included in all aspects of society.
Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina Renzo Daviddi said, "I think sport is a very important tool for getting people together. This is something that all kids like very much, and it is important to promote this kind of inclusion through sport."
UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Florence Bauer added, "These children, they have the right to be included in society, but it's not just because they have the right – but because they can bring so much to society. They have ability to contribute to social, economic and cultural life in society – just like everyone else."
A recent UNICEF survey in Bosnia and Herzegovina showed that one third of the respondents found it unacceptable that a child with intellectual disabilities would attend the same class with their child, and that almost half of them would not accept a child with intellectual disabilities as their child's best friend. UNICEF and its partners believe that focusing on the abilities of children will be a key tool in changing public opinion and encouraging inclusion of children living with disabilities in all aspects of the society.