Nadia and the Paralympic Movement

My name is Nadia Harushimina. I worked as a social assistant in one NGO called Mulindi Japan One Love Project. The NGO used to supply equipment for people with disabilities. My job was to assess people with disabilities who were coming for help. I had to assess them and see which equipment was suitable for them. Then after assessing them If I found them eligible   for help  I will just give them the appointment to come and have what they needed. However sometimes I used to receive people who have disabilities with complex needs and found myself in a position where the NGO were not able to help Specially women and girls who were abandoned by their husband because they had  children with disabilities and some of those women and girls they were also with disabilities .It was  hard for me to convince the person who come to me that we are not able to help. It was very hard. Some people used to come for help from village, miles away so imagine telling those individuals that there is not help for them. I had to give them money from my pocket for them to go back to their village. It happened a lot to have women and girls from different village to come to the city for help and I always had to pay their transport from my money.

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One thing I realised while working with people with disabilities was the discrimination around them from the society, the family and in some situation the parents or husband of a person with disability. That discrimination led these women and girls to discriminate themselves.

From there I started to think how to help these women and girls who later became my friends. I had an idea of sport as an instrument that would help them to overcome the stigma and discrimination as well .Therefore I managed to gather some women and girls and spoke to them about them joining sports some of the girls found the idea funny because they have never seen a girls or woman with disability doing any physical activity. I had to convince them that if men can do it they also can do it.

That time, in Burundi we only had men sitting volleyball team but not women. I used to go and watch men when they were playing. I got in touch with the men sitting volleyball coach and I asked him if he could come and help me to coach my girls. He was very happy with the idea and he helped me to start the team.

It looked crazy to start a women sitting volleyball club because there was not any other team. They were 25 women altogether so we used to meet up every Sunday afternoon for training and after some months I had a chance to participate in sitting volleyball training for coaches later on I became a sitting volleyball coach. I started to go in villages to start new clubs. I did not have budget for that but I had to contact centre for people with disabilities and that how I managed to create other club in the villages.

In 2009 I accompanied the men National sitting volleyball team to an East Africa Competition which took place in Rwanda. When we got there was a meeting for officials delegation. I had a chance to participate in the meeting and during the meeting the organiser asked if anyone has a question to ask.

I raised my hand and asked if there is a possibility to organise an East African women  sitting volleyball Tournament. The organise asked me if they were women in East Africa who could play sitting volley ball my answer was yes. Then he suggested that we could have another meeting with other women who were there to see if we could organise something for women  in the future.

The meeting went well and we were five women from different countries Burundi, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda  .The organise suggested that I could organise the tournament  because I was the one who brought up the idea of women but my response was no because in Burundi we did  not have facilities to host big even like that. However, a lady from Kenya suggested that she could host the tournament. From there we all decided that Kenya will host the 1st Women’s East Africa Sitting Volleyball in February 2010. We did not have funds that time but we had an idea.

In February 2010 everything went well and the Burundian government supported the team and that’s how Burundi was represented in the first East Africa Women Sitting Volleyball tournament.

In 2013, I was a wheelchair racing coach.

In 2013, I joined the National Paralympic committee as deputy general secretary. Being part of the Paralympic committee gave me opportunities to travel and participate in different training. In 2013 November I was elected as a woman representative in East Africa Paralympic. In July 2014, I participated in training organised by AGITOS foundation as a youth coordinator. In June 2014 I participated in Women Sport Leadership Academy (WSLA2014) and in October 2014 I participated in a training  Organizational Capacity Program organised by AGITOS in Germany.

In February  2014, I was nominated by IPC as among five women who have promoted the Paralympic movement:

After all those training, I was excited to work hard to promote the Paralympic movement in my country. Unfortunately,  in November 2014, I fled my country and became an asylum seeker in the UK. Something I never dreamt about  in my life.

I felt like all my hope, my ambitions were going to die. I did not know what to do.

I went to seek asylum at Croydon London. I did not know anything about claiming asylum I just knew that I had reason to seek asylum but I did not know it was a long process.

On the day when I went to claim my asylum I was asked a home office officer if I need my case to be treated faster I will have to spend time in detention I agreed because I did not know what is like to be in detention. I was told that detention is just a place where you spend days while waiting for your asylum to be  processed.

When I arrived in detention it was something different to what I thought. I spent two weeks in detention. It was the very hard time I have ever had in my life.

In detention they have sport  facilities, where you can go to pray, library as well as cyber. I used to spend time in cyber communicate with the Burundi Paralympic president because before I left Burundi I wrote a project about  women national  sitting volleyball  tournament then sent it to one lady called Julia Baumgart whom we met through the International Paralympic Committee network who agreed to help us to secure funding through her network.

Unfortunately the project was approved while I was in detention. When I saw the email that the project was approved It was then the time to give the account details and all details about money transfer.I sent an email to my president telling him to organise the tournament .I did not tell him that I was in the UK.The tournament went well and I asked my president to help me with the report. He sent me all the photos and the financial report which I sent to the lady who has sponsored the event. Everything was fine and I was really happy about the fact that I could coordinate everything while in detention.

When I came out of detention I sent an email to the lady and told her that I am an asylum seeker in the UK. She then came to see me  from Norway ad spend three days with me.

I was released to a hostel in Birmingham where I spent a month and later was given a place to stay in Wolverhampton where I live until today.

Where I arrived in Wolverhampton I did not know what to do because I was not allowed to work or to go to college before my case was decided. In February 2015 I joined the charity called Mothers Union and became a member up to now. There I was given a chance to speak about my work with women and girls with disabilities. It was a great privileged to be able to speak in public about my work.

In April I started volunteering at Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton. There I had opportunity to meet different people from different background. I am happy that I managed to make difference to the people met I met while I was working at Refugee and Migrant Centre.

While in the office people did not know that I was asylum seeker, they used to think that I was staff but in some situation I had to reveal to some people that I am an asylum seeker just to show them that being an asylum seeker does not mean that people should just  stay in the house but they should come out and join the community by contributing in the  area that they feel comfortable with.

In June 2016 I was granted a refugee status  and in 2018 November I got married and now ready to go back on track.