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Swimming, Skiing And Fighting For Inclusion

This article is an extract from RFE/RL 

Midhat Poturovic

Ismail Zulfic breaks taboos on a daily basis. The 8-year-old from Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, was born without arms and with deformities of both feet, but he’s cheerfully made a place for himself at school, on his swim team, and in his community.

Ismail is growing up in a society where differences are not accepted easily — but it’s the existence of prejudice that Ismail and his family refuse to accept.

Their family is like many others in Bosnia: his father, Ismet, works, while his mother, Elmina, stays home to take care of the children. Elmina has taught Ismail how to handle the curiosity of other kids, who sometimes ask hurtful questions, like “Where are your hands?”

With the help and persistence of his parents, new worlds have opened up for Ismail. Three years ago, he was afraid of water, but just one year of training turned him into a fearless swimmer and the regional champion at a competition in Croatia. Since then, he’s gone on to win more medals, along with the admiration of friends and relatives.

From The Pool To The Slopes

Ismail’s swimming coach is also a skiing instructor, and he introduced his student to the sport. He took to it immediately. “No matter how cold it is, it’s never enough for him,” Ismail’s father says.

One Of Many

“Ismail’s story is a heroic form of struggle,” psychologist Edin Dzanko says. “Unfortunately, this struggle is dependent on the commitment of the family and [other] individuals.”

Ismail’s parents, teachers, and coaches have all helped him get the most out of school and playtime, but there are many other kids who receive little or no such support. Only a fraction of children with disabilities receive special assistance at school and in their home life….

In Ismail’s community, the efforts made to include him and help him thrive have yielded great rewards — not only for one 8-year-old, but also for those around him.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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