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Catherine Crowley and Miriam Baigorri lead their Teachers College Columbia University speech language pathology graduate students on annual trips to Ghana, West Africa. There, they work in hospitals and schools for people with communication disabilities including those with autism, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and speech and language disorders. They provide speech language therapy, develop capacity, and collaborate with colleagues to address barriers to inclusion.

Cate Crowley, Sarah Douglas, and Henry Gordon, with support from Harry Abrams Artists Agency, donated one soccer ball from “One World Futbol” to each of 25 Unit Schools in Ghana, West Africa. Unit Schools are for students with intellectual disabilities and autism that are located throughout Ghana. Inspired by Ghanaian athlete and activist, Emmanuel Ofuso Yeboah, the soccer balls provide one way for general education students to interact and play with students with intellectual disabilities and autism. The students are so intensively engaged in running for the soccer ball, that they no longer see disability. Instead, they just see a fellow student running for the soccer ball. The soccer balls were distributed at a Professional Development retreat for 50 Unit School teachers from throughout Ghana in January 2013. Henry Gordon is a junior at Berkeley Carroll high school in Brooklyn, New York.

Below is the English transcription of the video:

Hello, my name is Cate Crowley. I am a distinguished senior lecturer here at Teachers College, Columbia University in the program of Speech-Language Pathology. I’m going to share with you a story about our work in Ghana, 2013. So, one of my closest friends is Sarah Douglass who works at Harry Abrams, theatrical agency here in New York. Every year at holiday time they identify a charity to raise money instead of doing secret santas or in addition to secret santas. Her son, Henry Gordon, who I’ve known forever, came with us for our trip to Ghana in January 2013. Henry is a great athlete, so I thought, well, maybe we can do something with athletics. I remembered a story from a documentary on a Ghanaian man with a physical disability. People wouldn’t play with him. He worked until he was able to afford  a soccer ball, and the kids said, “We want to play with your soccer ball.” He said, “Fine, as long as you play with me.” I thought, well maybe we can do something about soccer balls. So, Sarah and Henry found One World Futbol, which produces these soccer balls that don’t have a bladder, don’t need a pump, and are made out a similiar material to Crocs.

We ordered 25 of these soccer balls that arrived in the middle of December, and we were going to distribute these soccer balls at a professional development retreat we were doing at the University of Cape Coast to teachers of students with intellectual disabilities from throughout Ghana. We first went to the Ghanain consulate in New York and met with the deputy ambassador and talked to him about the balls. He in turn contacted Sarah Striker at the U.S. Embassy in Accra. She actually came and spoke at our professional development retreat. All the teacher’s at the professional development retreat received these bright blue soccer balls. Afterwards we visited one of the schools, the Effiduassi Unit School, where Belinda Bukari is the head teacher, and we took out the soccer balls. What happened there was magical. You couldn’t tell who the kids were with disabilities, and who the typically developing children were. All you could tell was that they were having an enormous amount of fun. Henry Gordon, as you can see in the pictures, was right in the middle of things. Not only was he a sports guy, he became an invaluable part of all of our work in Ghana in 2013.