Inside the Rock Spot climbing gym in Pero we are happy to meet up with two of Climbing Technology’s friends: Alberto Benchimol e Silvia Parente from the Silvia Rinaldi Onlus Foundation for sport in Bologna.
The collaboration that links Climbing Technology with the Foundation from Bologna has already been going for three years. Stable because it was born with a concept that is close to heart for both of them: to spread the culture of sport as an instrument of both physical and social growth.
We asked Alberto – the General Secretary of the Foundation – how was this collaboration born.
“Our Foundation is a charitable organisation and its objective is the promotion of sport, seen as a means for well-being and social inclusion. For a long time we were looking for a partner to support our Foundation, not only from the economic point of view, but someone who shared our values and who would genuinely add value to our cause. In Climbing Technology we met friendly and passionate people, eager to make a big contribution to our cause.”
What kind of collaboration exists between the two of you?
“To facilitate the approach to sport, for children and young people with disabilities, we are searching for entrepreneurial companies able to offer us the opportunity for mutual growth. Climbing Technology designs and manufactures individual belay devices and among the activities offered to the children, we have rock climbing. As well as a financial contribution, Climbing Technology have provided the material that is used every day in the climbing gym by our students who suffer from various types of disabilities: from children with physical problems to those with social problems.”
The use of the Climbing Technology devices by the disabled people is also a valuable opportunity to get feedback on the ease of use. Furthermore, to learn how to use a device and process some movements for a disabled person is easier said than done, this is why if these actions are few and simple it all becomes easier.
“Through the courses organised we facilitate the practise of sport climbing for young people with disabilities, integrating them with their able bodied peers. These activities have become a regular practise in our area, we have also contributed financially to the realization of a climbing gym in a secondary school in the province of Bologna where climbing is now on the school curriculum. We get all the students to try the Click Up: especially in the case of visual impairment where the audible feedback corresponds to the blocking of the rope. These characteristics also mean that a blind person is perfectly able to belay with total independence: you can easily imagine what this must mean to a disabled person.”
Even Silvia – the Paralympic medallist; President of the Foundation – is enthusiastic about the Click Up. “Firstly I really like it because it fits in my hand, because it is small, and it’s also light. But the thing I appreciate the most is the fact that it is failsafe. For people like me, who are blind, the incorrect insertion of the rope into a device has always been a big problem whereas with the Click Up it has been resolved. And lastly, no small feat, it is easier to give rope when you are belaying.”
As a Foundation you have inserted climbing into a much larger sports proposal, which increases from year to year, but how are they presented and above all how are your proposals accepted?
Alberto responds: “Through the work of consultations between us and the families. Climbing as a proposal is a sport that is really enjoyed. We started years ago with skiing, seeing as we are all Paralympic skiers, but right now it is expensive for families and it has the problem of being only seasonal. Climbing however, can be done both indoors and outdoors, it is cheap and much more user-friendly.”
“The biggest obstacle is getting the families to understand – continues Silvia – and having a disabled child at home is a limit to overcome. Sport, especially when playing with friends outside in the open air, can relieve some symptoms of disability and can even prevent some serious problems: For example, I’m thinking about obesity. It is scientifically proven that doing sports during adolescence reduces the probability of encountering this problem in adulthood by 30%.”
For those who have already encountered the problem, what benefits can be achieved by doing a sport like climbing? For example, is it not dangerous if you cannot see where the holds are on the wall?
To this question, Silvia has no doubts about the response. “Playing sports has changed my life. You need to change your point of view. You must start by assuming that you can try everything, all activities can be beneficial, and you just have to raise the bar and not look at the limits before the opportunities. Climbing for a blind person is no different than for an able bodied person, the difficulty and the movements are the same, perhaps only the way in which it is carried out changes, but everything else is not dissimilar.”
“As a Foundation – explains Alberto – we organise outings with school kids and make strategic alliances with companies to take the sport to its most complete level: as an instrument for social integration and for mental and physical well-being. Every one of our actions is intended for the growth of a culture and an education of sport for all. Because for us, a disabled person, by definition is an athlete.”
It is true that, given the results, sport as a vehicle to relieve some of the symptoms of a disability seems to be an idea that works and has good results.
Silvia smiles and says: “We organise courses with autistic children and we ourselves are the first ones to be impressed by the results. We observe in amazement these kids that hug each other after having climbed, blind children who reduce or hide those uncontrollable movements of the head. I am speaking about the stereotypes who use the head to identify the surrounding space and often with the sport, this vanishes because they acquire the ability to control their body in the space in which they find themselves in a more conscious and self-controlled way. And it is great to observe over a period of time because these actions disappear not only during the sporting activity but also in everyday life.”
So what is your wish for the future?
“We still have many projects to be realized – suggests Alberto – As a Foundation we feel obliged to raise awareness among public bodies and to introduce sport in a stable way into social politics.”
“I think of the parents of the disabled children – says Silvia – and I think of all of the people who believed in the sport and thanks to their disabled child they went skiing or hiking again. This, I believe this is the most important goal for all.”