"Everything can change from an active mind"
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
By Vlatko Otasevic
Paralympic gold medalist Peter Norfolk visited Montenegro to share his story with children living with disabilities.
PODGORICA, Montenegro, 9 July 2013 - British Paralympic gold-medalist Peter Norfolk paid a two-day visit to Montenegro in June to talk to children about his life and his sports career. His appearance was part of the national 'It's About Ability' campaign initiated by UNICEF in September 2010, in partnership with the Government of Montenegro, aimed at highlighting the potential of children with disabilities.
"Before my accident I was very sporting," Mr. Norfolk said. "And now I believe that everything can change from an active mind, an active body and being competitive."
The wheelchair tennis ace, known by the nickname 'The Quadfather', had an impressive career, winning two gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Athens and Beijing, as well as numerous other tournament titles. During his visit, he played a few matches with children and adults, and he also shared his story with several hundred guests at the Montenegrin National Theatre, where UNICEF and the British Embassy organized a celebration, which included a screening of the film 'The Best of Men', about the creation of the Paralympics.
"I've achieved most of my dreams. I never thought that I'll have a family. I have a family. I never thought I'll be a tennis player. I've been a tennis player," Mr. Norfolk said. "The barriers are put on you by everybody else. Everyone in the chair – you choose. They are your choices, not anyone else's. You have the choice whether you want to be great. And I would just say: Go out and do it."
He also made an appearance at the Resource Centre in Podgorica, where he made a strong impression on students both past and present.
"I must say that I was very fascinated by his success and his achievements," said Katarina Ćetković, a former student of the Resource Centre. "And it's really a great pleasure to see him in person."
Marko Otašević, a current student, said, "Peter inspired me to start thinking about playing tennis."
Breaking down barriers
Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, expressed his appreciation for Mr. Norfolk's visit. "Having Peter Norfolk as a double gold-winning paralympic athlete is an incredible privilege for us here in Montenegro," Mr. Perks said. "He is speaking with children with disability, young people with disability, their families and a wider community, and delivering really inspirational messages about how we can all work together to break down barriers and insure that people with disability and children with disability are included in our society."
Echoing these sentiments was the United Kingdom's Ambassador to Montenegro, Ms. Catherine Knight-Sands. "Bringing him here to help promote the UNICEF campaign 'It's About Ability' has been really great," she said. "He has inspired us all with his very positive attitude to overcoming barriers. He doesn't see those barriers – he sees them as opportunities to do things."
More than 100 partners from the international community, media, government, civil society and the private sector joined the national 'It's About Ability' campaign and contributed to the its success, including a dramatic increase in the enrolment of children with disabilities in schools.