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Kenyan wheelchair athletes find peace, reconciliation on basketball court

Kenya, March 30, 2012

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Jill Craig

Voice of America
March, 2012

Many victims of the 2007 Kenyan post-election violence were deaf, blind, or unable to run, making it difficult for them to find safety. As a result, one group of athletes with disabilities decided to take the matter to court - the basketball court. With outside assistance, these players revived the Rift Valley Wheelchair Basketball group, helping to teach peace and reconciliation.

Trash talking the opponent, cries of foul play and good-natured hand slaps after successful free-throws. It seems like a typical game of basketball, but these players compete in wheelchairs, and most suffered from polio as children.

Mercy Corps, with the backing of the United States Agency for International Development, began supporting the Rift Valley Wheelchair Basketball group in 2009 - providing funding for income-generating activities, distributing athletic gear and implementing a peace curriculum into the games.

“If you manage to bring all these people together, people from different backgrounds, different ethnic groups, to come and watch this game, and see, they are disabled, number one, but they also come from different ethnic groups and they are playing together and they are enjoying it. Yeah, and making something out of it,” explained Maurice Amollo, Mercy Corps senior program manager for the Rift Valley.