LN – Against all obstacles: how is the work of guides who run alongside blind people

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Guides to the Par is an NGO that was born in Mar del Plata and works for inclusive sport; It already has 70 volunteers. In the photo, Luis Echegaray, one of the blind people participating in the project, along with his companion, Gustavo García Credit: Mara Sosti

“It's not easy, huh,” warns Juan Alberto Contino, who is 71 years old and retired. Remember that
first experience in which, blindfolded, he sought to put himself in the place of who could be his company on duty. “It was on my side, I had no idea what I was on, I didn't know where he was,” he says, looking to describe that combination of uncertainty and fear in the face of the absolute darkness he felt while touring a scene hitherto everyday for him, but that suddenly appeared as loaded with obstacles.

“It's an experience of trust,” clarify the managers of that initial challenge that opens the doors to be part of
Guides at par,
an NGO that was born in Mar del Plata with the objective of accompanying those who have blindness or visual decline and wish to enter the “runner” circuit for pleasure or competition, contacting them with other people who, without disabilities, have a willingness of athletes and long-term solidarity.

Today,
they work with more than 40 people with disabilities and about 70 registered guides and trained to assist them voluntarily on walks, jogging or faster. The important thing is to accompany, move forward and reach the proposed goal.

Everything was born out of Marisa Arregui, an advanced student of the Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy and today coordinator of Peer Guides. Was when,
While participating in a competition five kilometers away in Punta Mogotes, he saw a blind boy run with a companion side by side that marked the route: “I was very excited,” he recalls.

He wanted then that the case was not an exception but the trigger of answers and help for others wishing to be part of those sporting challenges, but who feel impeded by their blindness or extreme visual decline.

Although I wanted to help, I didn't know how. Then, he got close to the running track. There he held out his hand to people with disabilities, always as a volunteer. In that circuit began to develop Guides to the Par. He made a call for
Facebook and set the meeting date on May 17, 2017, without knowing that day is the Day of the Voluntary Guide. Five people came. Among them, one with blindness to accompany. It was the starting point of a project that was strengthened and grew.

The first day with my guide I made 800 meters, today I run ten kilometers

Marcos Folgar

“Today we run every day except Saturdays,” says Arregui. The president of Guides to the Par is Marcos Folgar, for less than a month director of Disability of the municipality of General Pueyrredon and first blind official in 140 years of history that district has.

“I came to them because I wanted to run and until that moment, as for sports, I could only swim,” explains this journalist, creator and television host of the program Now Disability is News (DNA). “The first day with my guide I made 800 meters, today I run ten kilometers,” he says.

“Team” is the key word that sums up the success of this adventure.

“One does nothing,” is one of the phrases in the group. Being a guide is a possibility open to all, but full of responsibility. “Here it is clear that if the guide does not reach the meeting, there is someone who does not run,” says Arregui.

A lot of commitment is required. Here it is clear that if the guide does not reach the meeting, there is someone who does not run

Marisa Arregui

Step by Step

The growth was slow. We had to reach those interested. On the street, when they saw a white cane, those who are part of the NGO stopped, told the project and invited them to participate. In addition, they spread everything they could through social media and networks.

Thus, for example, Juan María Darguibel – better known as Josema – arrived, who travels three times a week by bus from Miramar to train with the group. Remember that the first race in which he wanted to participate ended up sitting, because he had no one to accompany him. In the last Marathon of Mar del Plata, he has just completed the 42 kilometers for the first time. “I want to run more,” he says.


Running by two is not easy. To go on par they wear a rope ring of about 40 centimeters, which allows them to go almost hand in hand.
Running by two is not easy. To go on par they wear a rope ring of about 40 centimeters, which allows them to go almost hand in hand. Credit: Mara Sosti

He reached that goal with his guide and coach, Alberto Sotelo, who runs ultra marathons and one day approached to help. “I saw a group of blind people run in a competition in Buenos Aires and I decided to help,” he says. Stresses the aerobic capacity and will of Josema, the Miramarense who not only completes distances but improves times.
“I thought he came to contribute experience and it turns out that the one he is learning is me,” says the athlete about an activity that excites him and is full of happiness.

Running by two is not easy. In addition to coordinating there are many obstacles on the public highway. Not even in season, with walks and circuits full of people and street furniture. To go on par they wear a rope ring of about 40 centimeters, which allows them to go almost hand in hand.

When they wanted to participate in marathons, the organizers tried to place them at the bottom of the squad. “We explain that the ideal is that we move forward, because those who see have a better chance of dodging,” says Arregui. The problem is many times that: lack of information and how to deal with blind people.

From “Guides on a par” they are excited that the project expands to other cities and has no limits. They set the example of a blind teenager of 16 years, who lives in a home. They say that they obtained the authorization of a judge to travel with them to each competition outside the city.

New guides are added daily to the group. Nora Beltrán worked at the Children's Hospital in Buenos Aires, settled in Mar del Plata and when she met the project she offered to collaborate. “I saw it in the DNA program and it seemed great,” he says. She also went through the baptism workshop. “I am super proud,” he confesses.

Challenges in other discipline

Guides to the Par is exploring more sports alternatives. Thus appeared tandem cycling, with double bicycles that take a blind cyclist in the back seat and another with the possibility of seeing, in front. They already have their own bike, three borrowed and six that could be added from different steps. They are also testing the seated volleyball and the “Goal ball”, a game of three against three competitors, with an arc for each team where you have to score goals with a ball that has a rattle to know its location and route.

FURTHER

(tagsToTranslate) Against all obstacles: how is the work of guides who run alongside blind people – LA NACION


Publicado en el diario La Nación