This post was originally published on PGATour.com, where CSPS Program Assistant Alicia H. Malnati, PhD, contributes articles on her experiences with the Center and its empowerment initiatives for PGA Tour Charities
Quick! Name the 13 provinces and territories of Canada…
No, really. Go ahead.
Didn’t get them all? Neither did we.
I contributed three answers of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan to our self-induced trivia game as we travelled from the Toronto airport to our hotel for this week’s PGA TOUR event, the Canadian Open. Peter added Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, but we soon had to rely on Andrew, one of hundreds of volunteers this week, to help us with the rest: British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.
I was pleased with our 8/13 performance. Pretty good, eh? But, even with our well-traveled season, including stops in 17 states and three countries, I had trouble answering a basic question about the country to our north. In that moment, I was reminded just how much we know about ourselves and just how little we know about others. Or how they live. Or what they experience. Maybe if we knew a little more about each other we’d see the world a little differently, which is exactly what a woman named Adeline Dumapong did for me not long ago. Let me tell you about her.
I met Adeline, a power lifter from the Philippines, in June during the U.S. Department of State’s Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), the foundational initiative of my work with the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee. In 2000, Adeline became the first Filipina to earn a medal at the Paralympics, and next month, she’ll compete in Rió de Janiero, her fifth and final trip to the Games. Although thriving now, Adeline is a story of overcoming the odds with remarkable courage, strength, and love.
Born into a poor family in the mountainous, landlocked province of Ifugao in the Philippines, Adeline was diagnosed with polio at the age of six. With few resources to care for her, her parents made the difficult decision to move her to a school for children with disabilities seven hours south in Manila. However, growing up away from her family was difficult, and the school environment lacked the knowledge and means to help children like her thrive. Nonetheless, Adeline was introduced to many sports during her time at the school.
“Wheelchair racing, wheelchair basketball, swimming,” she said. “But, I really wanted to find a sport that made me feel strong. And here I am now.”
For the past 17 years, Adeline has traveled around the world, won medals at some of the top powerlifting championships in Asia, and set remarkable records, like the time she bench-pressed 117 kilos, which is probably the weight of your entire body and then some. She’s also worked tirelessly as an advocate for disability rights as a member of the National Paralympic Committee of the Philippines. And, her newest endeavor, Operation LLP – the product of her participation in the GSMP – uses foundational values of learning, leading, and playing to expand access to disability sport in her country.
During her presentation on Operation LLP, Adeline described her vision for change, specifically including an increase in feelings of worthiness within the disability community. Besides her dedication, passion, and advocacy toward a cause that means so much to her, I noticed her presence. When she spoke, people listened. We listened to her words, but we also listened to her spirit. Her bubbling and joyful personality. Her genuine and forthright nature. Her passion to create small, incremental change. Her dream of a better world for others.
For me, Adeline arrived to the GSMP as a participant but left as a peer. Perhaps more. We so often and so easily forget the connections we have with our neighbors, whether across the street or across the world. And, my friend Adeline gave me so much: a reinvigorated passion for my own work, an extraordinary example of empathy and compassion, and another reason to remember that we’re all in this together.