RICARDO MACÉA INSTITUTO REMO
“Everybody experiences challenges at some point in their lives, be it in health or family, financially or professional. At that moment, life demands that from us: energy, resilience, and the ability to stand up to adversities. People with disabilities experience that 24/7. Every day is a struggle, getting around, getting out of bed, getting dressed. Always depending on another person. I know this personally because my dad has a disability, and his attitude towards life while facing these adversities is what inspires me.” The testimony was given by Ricardo Macéa, founder and director of Instituto Remo Meu Rumo (Rowing My Route Institute, in rough translation), an organization dedicated to promoting social inclusion through sports.
Seven years ago, Macéa and his wife, a pediatric orthopedist, had in mind the idea of enabling children and young adults with disabilities between the ages of 6 and 22 to transition from the hospital wards to an outdoors and sunny environment. A partnership was established with the University of São Paulo, and that’s where classes take place, at their Olympic rowing lane. A team of professionals – including physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and physical education instructors – is ready to assist them with an array of adapted equipment and show them the ropes of the sport. The goal is not to turn them into athletes, but rather stimulate physical exercise, gain of strength, positive thinking, confidence building, and to basically have fun.
“At the hospital, they’re constantly reminded of what they cannot do, of what doesn’t work properly in their bodies. We look at it from the opposite viewpoint. What can we do with your good arm, the one that works really well? You shift their mindset”, explains Macéa, who reminds us that 20% of the students need wheelchairs in their daily lives. “When those kids are on a boat that starts moving over water because of their own physical effort and strength, their minds go through a transformation, and what they often report back to us is an overwhelming feeling of freedom and self-confidence. What they most dream of in life is autonomy”. And the institute’s support doesn’t end when they get out of the water. Some of the kids have gone to college with their support, as well as received a first job opportunity with a partner of the organization. The success stories at Remo Meu Rumo are counted in the dozens. “Our mission is to build bridges for these kids. And that’s what we did at the Fellowship Program at Avenues São Paulo. We learned from our peers. We paused to sit down together and share our knowledge. We invested in social leadership.”