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HELPING THE DANISH WOUNDED SOLDIERS TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN LIFE THROUGH SPORT
Being able to participate in sport has proved to be an important part of the rehabilitation of veterans towards a good and meaningful life lived in different circumstances than before their injury.
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The programme of the Danish Sports Organisation for the Disabled and Paralympic Committee Denmark (DHIF) aims to help those who have been physically wounded in their job as a soldier in the Danish armed forces. In order to include as many wounded veterans as possible, the programme introduced the veterans to a variety of sports to let them try new things and learn. A number of camps have been organised both in Denmark and abroad, including the Summer Paralympic camp as an introduction to all the summer Paralympic sports; the adventure camp, to show veterans that an active life in and with nature is still possible after a big injury; and the Alpine Winter camp to introduce veterans to snow sports. A central part of the programme is the weekly training sessions that take place at the Sports Centre at the Svanemøllen Barracks in the city of Copenhagen. In addition to practising sport, the training has also provided an opportunity to establish new social relations. Multiple additional activities and trips that have been organised include the unofficial Danish Championship in wheelchair basketball, participation in the New York Marathon 2011, sledge hockey in Sweden, sailing activities and the Sports Centre weekend at the Svanemøllen Barracks.
A personal need-based approach
During the early stages of the development of the programme, the project manager personally visited all of the eligible veterans to discuss their history of sports participation and their thoughts of participating in sport after the injury. These conversations were the key to the development of the various project activities and put the needs of the veterans at the heart of the programme.
A two-phase programme
The programme was set up in two distinct phases. From 2011 to 2013, the programme focused on establishing a network of club activities with the participation of at least 50% of eligible veterans in daily sports activities and motivating veterans to participate in DHIF’s competitions and tournaments. From 2014 to 2016 the programme will continue to support veterans who have acquired a permanent physical injury to take up sport, but also increase focus on sports development with the ultimate goal to have one to three physically injured veterans to compete in the European and World Championships, as well as the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016.
The Danish Sports Organisation for the Disabled and Paralympic Committee Denmark
Promote sport and physical activity
The main aim of the programme is to motivate physically injured veterans to resume and continue an active sports life after completing their physiotherapy, with the ultimate objective to develop Paralympic athletes in a range of disciplines.
Improve public health and well-being
An important part of rehabilitation is learning to physically and mentally cope with the disability and new way of life. Of the participating veterans in the programme, 78% believe that participating in sport has provided them with new insights into the opportunities they still have despite their handicap.
The programme has been widely reported on in the national media in the form of interviews, a documentary and articles about the project or parts of the project. In addition, the programme is featured on the website of the Danish Sports Organisation for the Disabled.
The programme has been evaluated in an extensive report called “When sport gets serious”. The most important outcome is that more than 80% of the evaluation participants say that the project has made positive impact on the overall satisfaction of their own lives. In 2015, a seminar will be organised focusing on the rehabilitation of the injured soldiers to share knowledge between multiple stakeholders across national borders. This event will be a catalyst for discussing the programme’s future in the Royal Danish Army and the veteran centre after 2016.