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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

Churchill Fellowship Day Three: Things I Never Knew Existed

After yesterday’s somewhat interesting breakfast we decided to try another approach and order in. Our IHOP crepes did not disappoint, and set us up rather well for another truly facinating day.

Firstly we visited Ability 360, I couldn’t believe the difference on our short walk to the venue. The streets felt as if they had been swept clean of some of the more deprecated members of Arizona’s society. I couldn’t help but wonder how and when this cleanse had occurred.

The Ability 360 facility is a truly mind blowing accomplishment, and represents a great deal of what I would love to see in the UK. In some ways the experience was both awe-inspiring and bittersweet. I would love to see purpose built facilities like this in the UK but it’s impossible not to recognise the level of financial investment required would be beyond what most Local Authorities could access. Much of the donations for the facility came from national organisations and professional sports teams, I can’t really conceptualise the money involved in such a feat. The scale is rather too ambitious in its entirety, but the fundamental ideology, infrastructure and equipment has much I can take away and think on… I think I’ll leave that to a separate blog.

One of the most powerful take aways from my experience was the job title of ‘Recreational Therapist’ - something I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist in the UK. This is someone whose job it is to incorporate physical activity into a person’s life for therapeutic benefit. This is something I’d really like to bring back with me!

In addition, just over 50% of the facility staff were Disabled, including Recreational Therapists/Personal Trainers. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that lived-experience, shared lived-experience especially, is a powerful tool in engaging and retaining participants. Not only that, it gives you an incredibly unique perspective and unique skillset. Harnessing this is something we must fully embrace throughout the adaptive recreation sector in the UK, nothing about us without us comes to mind once more.

After our time there, we set off to explore the Downtown area of Phoenix which, once again, made me feel very small. The buildings here are pretty huge with noticeably more food outlets and considerably less shops than I expected. We were advised by a local that the shops are located in a Mall called Biltmore so we jumped on the Metro and then a bus to head in that direction. What awaited us was a very tranquil manicured outdoor mall with a select number of designer stores and a huge Macy’s. I still find it hard to wrap my brain around how different each area of Phoenix feels, everything is just on a different scale here, and that includes class divisions and societal disparities.

Image Description: A bright blue sky with large skyscrapers towering over a plaza area.

Image Credit: Leisa Wilkins ;)

Our journey back in the afternoon was long (thanks to a delay with the bus), hot and a little bit scary. The opioid crisis once again becoming abundantly clear and present whilst we waited on the metro platform. People clearly stuck in the depths of their own struggle living on a different plain to the rest of society. It’s quite hard to look at and even harder to truly understand. How can this be allowed to go on?

Once safely back at the hotel we headed down to the pool area for a conference meet and greet. Being a foreigner on my own, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However, a random encounter with an Adaptive Physical Education teacher proved to be absolutely fascinating, I learnt a great deal about the evolving US system and how it differs greatly from state to state. The very existence of such a role once again sparked a great deal of hope and desire in me, another thing I’d really like to bring back with me to the UK.

I’m looking forward to learning a few more things tomorrow as I plan to listen to a few speakers. It will be interesting to see if some of the same roles and terminology are used across the sector and if any exciting new ideas are thrown into the mix.

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