Many of the students at the Redemptorist Vocational School for People with Disabilities, especially those who were born with a disability, have never experienced the feeling of being immersed in a bath full of water, or floating in a swimming pool, a lake or a river.
Most Thai houses do no have baths; a shower is taken by scooping water from a large container and pouring it over yourself, so for many with a physical deformity or a mental disability the chance of ever going for a swim is very small and it would be too dangerous for the person with a disability to go down to the nearest river and jump in.
At last, swimming.
So imagine how it feels for the new students at the school to be invited to the pool, given an inflatable swimming ring to wear, and with the aid of a friendly volunteer they are lowered into the water.
For the first few seconds there are a lot of worried looking students, but then that worry is replaced with a smile that never leave their faces.
They are not going to sink, the pressure on their joints and muscles is relieved and they flap their arms and legs and somehow make it through the water, still smiling.
Happy to make it from one end of the pool to the other.
Several receive therapy while in the water and they are soon able to move their limbs like never before.
Those students who have lost limbs in accidents are also encouraged to get into the water. There are many who before losing a limb were competent swimmers, but they have doubts that without both arms and both legs they will never be able to swim again. But they can, they just move through the water in a different way.
The water makes physiotherapy easier and less painful.
Swimming is just one of the sports the school offers its students. If learning to swim does not take their fancy, there is also basketball, tennis, archery and fencing, all for wheelchair users. There is also volleyball, takraw, badminton and athletics, and many former students have represented Thailand at international sporting competitions. Getting into the water for the first time was an ordeal for many, but who knows where it will lead.
More information can be found at www.fr-ray.org or email [email protected]
Nothing will stop them if they really want to do something.
They swim with the help of a volunteer and an inflatable ring.