Inclusive Sports Makes for Lifelong Friends
Inclusive Sports Makes for Lifelong Friends
Kristin is a volunteer at Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF), a not-for-profit that promotes inclusivity through adaptive adventure and sports activities, where people (with and without disability) come together and experience the adrenaline and camaraderie that only sport can offer.
I am Kristin from Minnesota, USA, and have lived outside of the States for the better part of the past 26 years.
In most of the countries we lived in, I pursued work with NGOs. In addition to my global professional and volunteer work, I consistently tried to find local sporting events, since I participate in several athletic disciplines, ranging from independent running, cycling, swimming, to all three in triathlons.
While I was living in Tel Aviv, I was introduced to a team of athletes with disabilities and found that participating with this team fulfilled and rewarded me in a way that solo efforts did not.
When we moved to New Delhi, I joined my first inclusive sporting event with Adventure Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) in August 2017. With ABBF, I became a member of the first inclusive cycle team in India to ride from Manali to Khardung La. The reason I spent time looking for an inclusive adventure group was simple, I love interacting with people who value each other and their differences. Working with a group whose common goal is for everyone to reach his or her full potential is a large part of why ABBF spoke to me.
I made a lot of new friendships during the Manali to Khardung La expedition, and through the other events I joined, but the friendship that grew out of the cycle ride in the Nilgiris, Southern India, is why I am writing today.
Chhonzin Angmo is from Himachal Pradesh, India. Angmo lost her vision at age eight. Instead of accepting a limited and grim future, Angmo, with the support of her family and Buddhist guru, carved out and realised a new and exciting reality that has resulted in success, inspiration and joy.
Angmo demonstrates sheer determination and true grit with every new challenge she takes on. She is currently studying for her Masters in New Delhi and consistently looks for new sporting adventures to tackle. Angmo heard of ABBF through friends and without ever having cycled or knowing anyone on the Manali to Khardung La 2018 event, she signed up and completed the grueling 550km+ cycle ride through the challenging terrain of the Himalayas.
Her experience with ABBF was clearly a good fit and Angmo sought out future events, including the Nilgiris cycle adventure, where I had the great fortune to meet her and start our beautiful friendship.
My first impression of Chhonzin Angmo was of a quiet, but strong and determined cyclist. I knew immediately that I wanted to get to know her better. We sat together during meals and campfires, until I finally worked up enough courage to ask her if I could be her captain. She agreed without hesitation and our ride together solidified the beginning of a genuine and enduring friendship.
In the following months, Angmo and I ran in the Delhi marathon together, started swimming on a regular basis and getting together for social events. I never would have met Angmo had it not been for ABBF.
When I think of Angmo, I think of my beautiful, smart and strong friend. The word blind isn’t in the forefront of my mind, even though I am sure it is the first thing people notice when they see us together. Angmo has made adaptations to her daily routine since she lost her vision, but she never denies herself the opportunity to try something new because of her blindness. I am inspired not only by her ability to adapt to a challenging world, but also by her bravery in trying new adventures that most people who do not have a disability would never consider.
Angmo is my friend because she is a thoughtful, interesting, positive, funny and warm person. We challenge and support each other and as we spend more time together, we lean on each other. We have many differences, from age, ethnicity, and language to sighted versus blind. The differences only enhance our friendship, creating a deep, trusting and close connection.
I believe our differences provide unique perspectives that result in greater acceptance, tolerance and understanding not only of each other, but the broader community. ABBF brought Angmo and I together and I am thankful everyday for our friendship.
Our Better World told the story of ABBF which was how we met the dynamic duo of Kristin and Angmo! Their story was part of OBW’s VR Series “In a Different Sense” which utilised VR technology to tell immersive stories of people with disability living their best lives.