Now that the flame has been lit, the spirit of the Paralympics is officially in motion. The wait for the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games could not have felt longer for the 4,400 Paralympians. Still, they are the torch carriers of resilience and perseverance, moved by an unwavering desire to push their limits.
However, there is much more to the Paralympics than personal achievement. Regardless of having been born with a physical impairment or having life events change their bodies, Para athletes are the perfect embodiment of courage and determination. As in the Paralympics' motto–"spirit in motion”—their strong will can set the winds of change in motion, carrying a message of unity to a global audience, empowered by the very notion of diversity.
With a global workforce of 380,000 people, at Teleperformance, we do much more than harnessing the favorable winds of digital transformation. Our global workforce could not be more diverse in race, color, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, nationality, social origin, birth, and of course, in the level of physical ability. In 2020 alone, we have hired almost 6,000 people with physical impairments to pursue a career at Teleperformance. Therefore, when we join the Paralympics in spreading a message of social inclusion, it is because we have already started nurturing a culture of acceptance and respect from within our organization, putting empathy at the core of our actions.
We also believe in the transformative power of sports, and we are proud to have supported the Athlon Institute in Brazil in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of children and adults with disabilities through sports in 2020. Teleperformance’s support was just a drop in the ocean of what this institution really needs to help hundreds of people with disabilities in the process of becoming active and independent citizens.
Our team spent an afternoon at the Athlon Institute. We had the chance to speak to some of the fantastic athletes that train there every day. In the words of Kelvin Bakos, Director at Athlon Institute, their mission is to "transform the lives of people with disabilities." They support 80 Para athletes between the ages of 11 to 58 years old, teaching them discipline and focus on achieving their personal goals, but most importantly, solidarity, and respect for others.
In almost 10 years of existence, the Athlon Institute has won 1,605 medals in competitions such as the Paralympic Games, World Athletics Championships, ParaPanAmerican Games, Brazilian Championships, and other events. We also got the chance to interview the athletes competing now at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Listening to their testimonials was an emotional and inspiring experience for us.
Lorena Spoladore (Runner, T11, bronze, and silver at 2016 Rio Paralympics) is a visually impaired athlete, competing in Tokyo in three modalities: 100m, 200m, and long jump. Beyond the medals, she recognizes she managed to fulfill all her dreams, on and off the tracks, through sports. Her motto: "Always race to win." And her ambition is to win three gold medals at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Edson Cavalcante (Runner, T38, bronze at 2016 Rio Paralympics), born with cerebral palsy, highlights the fact that sports bring change, and he is the walking example of that. He has two sons and a Degree in Computer Science, and we could also tell he is an excellent motivational speaker.
Daniel Silva (Track&Field, T11, gold, bronze, and silver at 2012 London and 2016 Rio, holds the 400m world record). Besides his memorable achievements, Daniel states he has reasons to be happy every day because he chooses to celebrate the small daily victories as well. His motto is "Work hard." And hard work has indeed brought him to the Tokyo Paralympics.
Having a physical impairment, either congenital or acquired, has opened the range of possibilities these athletes could aspire for. Their differences make them unique. And at Teleperformance, we have partnered with another example of uniqueness: Aaron Fotheringham. His sheer determination has led him to invent a new sport: wheelchair motocross. By pushing his upper body to the limits and performing incredible stunts, he created something the world had never seen before, inspiring children and adults in wheelchairs to see no barriers in their path.
The value of having individuals practicing sport ranges from social inclusiveness to attending competitive high-performance competitions, meaning that dreams and hopes are restored for a better future in any case.
Taking a long-term view, organizations worldwide need to be mindful that the winds of change are "in emotion." The grounded emotional inspiration brought by sports can be a catalyst for that change, helping organizations promote equity in the workplace and level the playing field for all their employees. And while the Olympics have united the world "by emotion,” the Paralympics are a statement of how it can set anyone’s goals in motion.