Dr. Sarah Moore is an assistant professor and adapted physical activity researcher at Dalhousie’s School of Health and Human Performance. In Moore’s third- and fourth-year classes, students complete a volunteer placement in parasport.
Parasports are physical activities adapted for those living with disabilities. There are nearly 6.2 million Canadians living with a disability, and according to Dr. Moore, they have fewer opportunities to participate in play, physical activity, and sport compared with their able-bodied peers. In parasport programs, children and adults living with disability participate in physical activities such as sledge hockey, boccia, wheelchair basketball, therapeutic horseback riding, dance, paraskiing, and powerchair soccer.
“Parasport programs in Nova Scotia allow people with disabilities to engage in meaningful activities, build their skills and friendships, and improve their overall health and wellbeing,” says Dr. Moore.
Adapted sport is growing in Nova Scotia, and Dalhousie’s School of Health and Human Performance students are getting first-hand experience in parasport through their coursework.
One of the programs at which students volunteer is with Easter Seals, a disability service organization. Dr. Moore’s students are responsible for developing and leading drills, games and scrimmages, and providing evidence-based one-on-one coaching. Through this they build therapeutic relationships with their participants.
“The partnership forged over the last few years between Easter Seals inclusive sports programs and Dalhousie’s School of Health and Human Performance has quite literally been a game changer” says Joanne Bernard, CEO of Easter Seals Nova Scotia. “The passion and commitment of Dr. Sarah Moore is shared by her students who show up every week in every way. The kids and older adults with disabilities benefit so wonderfully from the commitment and expertise these students bring to every game. Sarah and I work together to ensure each participant plays the best they can while having fun.”
Dr. Moore says it’s a “mutually beneficial relationship” and a “sustainable volunteer model.” The organizations get a flow of qualified volunteers, and students get an opportunity to experience their degree program in a new space.
The placements aren’t meant to be just a required assignment for students, but an experience they can take with them beyond graduation.
“Volunteering with the Learn to Sledge and Dance programs this term has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had,” says Derica Poirier, a kinesiology student in the School of Health and Human Performance. “The kids show up with so much excitement and it’s incredible to watch them grow together every season. These programs truly provide the experience of a lifetime, not only for the children but for everyone involved and I’m so grateful to be a part of something so meaningful and impactful.”
Dr. Moore herself is on the Board of Directors for Easter Seals and is the head coach of the Easter Seals Learn to Sledge and Wheel programs as well as HRMs Powerchair Soccer program.
She says she deeply values volunteerism and that the service-learning opportunities in her various classes “fosters community citizenship and allows students to appreciate and value play, physical activity, and sport for people living with disability.”
"Though this experience I hope my students see that volunteering is powerful – and inclusion is paramount.”
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