December 20 - The first of three development workshops in the build-up to the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games has taken place in the Colombian capital Bogota.
Organised by Toronto 2015 in conjunction with the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), representatives from 28 of the 29 National Paralympic Committees (NPC) in the region attended.
The workshop was divided into three main topics, consisting of organisational capacity and the Paralympic Movement, athlete and sport development, and strategic partnerships.
Through group activities and worksheets, participants had the chance to work on key areas and action items specific for their NPCs with guidance of the expert facilitators, as well as having substantial networking opportunities to communicate with other countries.
It was reported that levels of cooperation among all the representatives was "outstanding" with larger NPCs, such as the United States, Brazil and Canada, offering advice to smaller ones, including Chile, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, on how to improve their preparations for Rio 2016.
The event was overseen by expert facilitators from across the region, including Dr Colin Higgs, an expert in athletes' pathway and talent development, and Juan Pablo Salazar, Colombian NPC President and head of a non-Governmental organisation that uses sport as an advocate towards the rights of people with impairments in Colombia.
Kristina Molloy, director of Parapan planning and integration of Toronto 2015, emphasised how "Toronto 2015 is committed to supporting the growth of the Paralympic Movement within the Americas region."
"The level of interest, participation and expertise at the NPC sport management workshop exceeded expectations, and resulted in excellent knowledge transfer between the NPCs from the Americas region," she added.
"This workshop was an important step towards ensuring the region's best para-athletes have fantastic performances at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games."
These sentiments were echoed by the Agitos Foundation Development Manager Isra Villalpando.
"I am thrilled with the response rate we received for this initiative, which resulted in the participation of almost all the NPCs in the Americas," he said.
"But most important for me was to see the openness that exists in the region to work together towards the same goal: build a stronger Paralympic Movement on the road to Toronto 2015 and Rio 2016.
"The Toronto Parapan American Games will offer a unique opportunity to showcase the power of the athletes of the region on the road to Rio 2016, and the countries have recognised that working together can achieve much more than walking alone.
"I am convinced that the Americas region is on the right track and that our NPCs are working hard.
"We, the Agitos Foundation, will keep supporting these cooperative efforts with our members and it is great to count partners like Toronto 2015 and the other organisations among this process."
The event in Bogota marked the first of three workshops held ahead of the Games - with the next to be held in São Paulo, Brazil, next April before a final one in the Jamaican capital of Kingston in August.
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