By the Editorial staff
In collaboration with the ASD GSS Reggio Emilia and Champions' Camp, we have been organising multi-sports summer camps for deaf children and teenagers for seven years now, so they can have a holiday with their hearing peers and enjoy sports activities and have fun in a fully integrated environment. Our commitment to the community is to teach children values such as respect for differences, the right to have fun and play, and integration and teamwork.
The Summer Camps are the main tool we us to help children to develop, physically and mentally, by encouraging them to build relationships with others in a healthy and non-competitive environment. The Champions' Camp staff consists of qualified educators, tutors and instructors and ensures 24-hour supervision. The deaf children and teenagers are supported by staff who are selected and trained to meet all needs, whatever those might be, helping participants to understand their teachers' instructions and to integrate in the best way possible.
The staff is made up of deaf children, CODA (Children of Deaf Adults), professional Italian Sign Language interpreters and communication assistants. Each edition has also seen the participation of Italian athletes from the FSSI – Federazione Sport Sordi Italia – champions in various disciplines who come to visit us at our camps and spend the day with the children and young people to demonstrate that deafness is not a limitation, but an opportunity to become future champions, in sports as in life. For two years now, "Champions' Camp: Sport and integration, the most beautiful victory" has also been part of the "Deaf Champions: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" project, in collaboration with the Pio Istituto Sordi and Federazione Sport Sordi Italia, Fondazione Vodafone Italia and OSO - Ogni Sport Oltre, which promotes projects that have proven to have a wide-ranging social impact across Italy, as well as projects that generate cultural change, effectively supporting people with physical and sensory disabilities in practicing a sport by involving target groups and their communities (families, coaches, volunteers, fans, schools etc.). It was founded in 2011 by Manuela Nironi, a deaf person and Project&Sport manager, as an opportunity for her daughter, who is also deaf, to have an accessible sports holiday with her friends (an educational project that did not yet exist at the time). It has grown over the years as Ilaria Galbusera, Captain of the FSSI Deaf National Volleyball Team, has joined the team and developed a solid friendship with Manuela Nironi, based on shared values and principles.
"I could never have imagined that this integration project, which is unique in Italy, would be so successful. Seeing the children happy and carefree while doing sports is my greatest victory," says Manuela when asked about what is most rewarding about organising these summer camps. "It is an immense pleasure that, over the years, the number of deaf children and young people who participate has grown so much. This is an important sign that our commitment to this unique integration project is being rewarded by an increasing number of families who share its values and appreciate the camps.
In fact, after a difficult and unusual year for all of us, which forced us to regretfully cancel the 2020 edition, we are happy to be able to start again with even more enthusiasm, by re-opening enrolment for the summer of 2021. This is very positive feedback for all of us, as we continue to work to give more and more deaf children and young people the chance to have an unforgettable experience.
"Sports are fundamental for every child’s growth, it doesn't highlight differences but helps to overcome them," Ilaria explains. "It is a means of full integration and allows everyone to develop self-esteem. If you also manage to achieve the goal of making sport completely accessible, then you can say you've won. It is a project that Manuela and I really believe in. We grew up with sports and want to give more deaf children the opportunity to experience this. We are convinced that it will be an unforgettable moment of growth for them.”
To date, this remains the only organisation at the national level that organises this unique educational sports project on an ongoing basis. Past editions have seen an increasing number of deaf participants sign up. Over the course of six editions, over 300 children and young people with hearing disabilities from all over Italy have signed up. For further information: https://www.championscamp.it/sport-integrazione/