2015 Asean Para Games: Day 6

Asean Para Games: E-funding attempt a big step for Laos

Chanthavong Vingthong (left), captain of the Laos wheelchair basketball team, used his financial knowledge to fund their trip to the Asean Para Games.
Chanthavong Vingthong (left), captain of the Laos wheelchair basketball team, used his financial knowledge to fund their trip to the Asean Para Games.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Video appeal fell short of mark, but donations helped wheelchair basketball team compete

The venue of the 2014 Asean Para Games - Myanmar - was just next door but the Laos wheelchair basketball team were unable to participate owing to a lack of funds.

Team captain Chanthavong Vingthong told The Straits Times: "For wheelchair basketball, we don't have the funding support from the government."

He explained that the Laotian government funds only four disabled sports - swimming, goalball, powerlifting and athletics.

Their coach, Khounsipaseuth Sourthavisone, estimated that the team needed to raise some US$16,000 (S$22,300) to participate in this APG.

  • COUNTING THE COST

  • $1,000

    What the Laos basketball team managed to raise in US dollars through their video, well short of their US$16,000 target.

    $700

    What the cheapest wheelchair used for competition costs in US dollars. Other countries' equipment can cost about US$2,000

But Chanthavong, a finance manager, and his team-mates were determined to make it to Singapore and turned to crowdfunding to earn their ticket here.

He was sharing his vision of wanting to promote the team and raise awareness about the sport with a friend when the latter suggested shooting a video. The friend, a graphic designer, even agreed to help film and edit it.

They created a one-minute video, uploaded it on YouTube in October, and crowdfunded via the GlobalGiving website.

Chanthavong, 31, candidly admits that it is not a perfect video. It took two days to shoot, three days to edit and was shot on a "normal camera, not a professional one".

Although the video helped to raise only US$1,000, the team still managed to make their way here, thanks to donations from the Asian Development with the Disabled Persons organisation, the Lao Disabled People's Association and Vientiane International School.

"It was a good video to show society that we are disabled but we can do things like normal people, just give us a chance," said Khounsipaseuth. While the team have achieved their dream of making it to Singapore, they still have other needs to fulfill.

One of them is to have a wheelchair basketball facility that they can call their own.

In Vientiane, where the team train, there is only one indoor stadium for the disabled.

The basketballers have to share the space with other groups such as the goalball team.

As a result, each practice session is limited to one or two hours.

And then there is the issue of equipment. The cheapest wheelchairs used in this sport cost at least US$700.

The higher-quality wheelchairs used by other national teams can cost around US$2,000.

But Chanthavong, a polio sufferer, is all smiles when he talks about the sport, despite the obstacles he and his team-mates face.

He has been playing the game since he was 19, and kept at it because he still enjoys it.

"This sport is played by a team. The experience makes me stronger. I have friends," said the father of two.

Despite the video raising only a modest sum, the team continue to dream of competing at the pinnacle of their sport - the 2020 Paralympics in Japan.

At these Games, their dream of a medal of any colour was dashed, but it has not dampened their enthusiasm.

"We are new," said Khounsipaseuth, "but we have the stamina."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'E-funding attempt a big step for Laos'. Print Edition | Subscribe