LivAbility Magazine

Edition 19 | Winter 2020

PHOTO: A group of about 30 people in sport wheelchairs in a circle listening to Coach Peter Hughes who is in the center of the circle in his own wheelchair. Photo by Mia Hanson.

Arizona-based organization delivers training and wheelchairs in Indonesia

Story by Alana Minkler
Photos courtesy of Mia Hansen

After years of playing and coaching competitive wheelchair athletics, Peter Hughes, the director of athletics at the University of Arizona’s Disability Resource Center, decided he wanted to give back to the sport of wheelchair basketball.

He founded Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide, a nonprofit, which collects old sports wheelchairs and donates them to developing countries. They also travel to those countries and host a training camp.

Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide works throughout the year to collect equipment and has donated and facilitated training camps in India, Nepal, Peru, and as of September 2019, a community of people with disabilities in Bandung, Indonesia.

The wheelchair basketball clinic took place September 9 through 11 in a gymnasium in Bandung, according to Mia Hansen, an attendee of the trip and the executive director of Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports.

Donald Santoso, an Indonesian-American who lived and studied at Arizona State University, reached out to Hughes, inspiring the trip to Indonesia.

Santoso recruited over 30 participants, many of whom were part of Jakarta Swift, a community wheelchair team, and helped lead the clinic alongside Bandung community members.

Santosa said they loaded all the wheelchairs into a van and drove eight hours from Tucson, Arizona to Los Angeles International Airport, where they met up with Dan Altan, a founding member of Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide and a coordinator of the trip.

Wheelchairs are a rare sight in Bandung. The sidewalks are often so bad that people walk on the streets.

“It’s almost like you’re off-roading,” Hughes said. “You feel for the other people with disabilities because we’re very spoiled here in Tucson.”

Hughes and Altan coached and lead beginners in wheelchair basketball, many who had never sat in a wheelchair, much less a wheelchair built for sports.

“I have never seen a more excited group of people than those newcomers who sat in sports chairs for the first time,” Hansen said. “They quickly picked up on the American style of coaching and eagerly absorbed every drill, every skill thrown at them. There were lots of sore muscles, but high spirits, full hearts and happy athletes at the end of the camp.

“There was a lot of people crying when we’re leaving, thanking us and hugging and taking photos,” Hughes said.

Since the trip, participants from the camp in Bandung began the planning stages of hosting a three-on-three wheelchair basketball tournament and made a team that plans to compete in the Asian Para Games.

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Alana Minkler

Alana Minkler is a junior at the University of Arizona studying journalism. She is from Flagstaff, Arizona and has always loved writing and exploring the outdoors. Alana is passionate about investigative and science journalism. She is also the investigative editor and reporter at the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

Read more by Alana Minkler.