Golfer needs $2 500 for trip

HARARE - Special Olympics Zimbabwe (Soz) golfer Lee-Roy Kasamba is just $2 500 short of realising his dream of representing the country at the Macau Golf Masters in Hong Kong, China this month.

The games are scheduled for April 16 to 20 and Kasamba is supposed to travel on the 15th.

Out of the $4 000 total required for the trip, the 23-year-old golfer’s mother Christina Chiviya has been able to raise $1 500.

Chiviya sourced the money from various sponsors and well-wishers after running a social media campaign via Facebook.

All the money raised so far has, however, gone to cover the airfares for Kasamba’s trip.

“I started fundraising about three weeks ago and it’s money mainly from relatives and friends and the odd person here and there who responded to my posts on Facebook. In total we need $2 500 down from the initial $4 000,” Chiviya tells the Daily News on Sunday.

“Lee-Roy is 23 and he has been playing golf for about five years now. He has been going to a school called Vimbainashe Learning Institute for children with intellectual challenges in Sentosa. He finished last year and will be doing vocational studies starting next term.

Macau Golf Masters is the largest golf tournament for people with intellectual disabilities.

“This is a great feat because even for an able bodied athlete, being chosen to represent the nation is huge honour. The tournament also has a conference going at the same time...there will be presentations from donor organizations and other big organisations that will be talking about how they’ve insured that people like Lee-Roy are getting equal chances at various things like employment just like their able bodied peers,” Chiviya added.

“They will also showcase techniques on how to help our children improve through stimulation of different parts of their brain. Everyone stands to benefit a lot from this trip. Zimbabwe is very far behind regarding ways to help intellectually challenged family members and sadly after school they tend to just be left alone with no skills to fend for themselves in life.

“Employers never consider them for employment unless if they end up working for their parents or a relative and abuse is rampant, verbal, physical and at times sexual. It’s time we did our best to help and for Lee-Roy going to this tournament is a great honour and just being selected has been a great confidence booster for him.”

It has been a daunting reality to accept for Kasamba’s mother at first but she has since grown in confidence and her son’s success especially in a technical sport such as golf.

“I struggled to accept the diagnosis; it took years and a former boss of mine a white guy helped me a lot. He had a brother who was autistic so he would encourage me to talk about Lee-Roy,” she said. 

“Then at a school he attended called Silver Linings when they were still on Kent in Avondale, they had a doctor who used to come and give us counselling she helped me a lot. Prayer too has been essential and having a personal revelation that Lee-Roy is a blessing as he is has been very instrumental in my coming to terms with who he is.

“The fact that he is excelling at golf to the extent of being made a team member of the Zimbabwe Special Olympics is my inspiration. He always pushed me and made sure one of us (including husband) was at his tournaments and he always made sure he got his transport money to go to practise he always reminded us come what may. He has worked so hard to get where he is that is my inspiration.”

It all started with an unusual suspicion which led into the discovery of the condition at a tender age.

“He was diagnosed at two years old. I remember when he was six months old I went to his paediatrician and he told me all was well but I was not convinced and I didn’t give up,” she said.

“I went to him over and over again until my son was two...he sent us to St Giles for an assessment. I was there the whole day with him as we went from physiotherapy to occupational therapy to speech therapy then finally the psychologist assessed him.

“Each session was about two hours long. They asked me everything, family history, any issues during the pregnancy or labour and there were none. Did he fall? bump his head? Anything? No, not that I knew of.

“That’s when they gave me the diagnosis, mild mental retardation. My question was what needs to be done to help him?

“I was advised to enrol him into a nursery school as soon as possible which I did, and then he began sessions with the speech therapist and the occupational therapist. I would leave work every day just before lunchtime pick him up at home and take him to St Giles.

“I thank God for an understanding boss that time. I had no car and would be gone for most of the day but I was ready to fight for him, to ensure that children and adults would stop asking me why he spoke the way he did, why he didn’t respond the way they expected him to. Today you can’t even tell that this young man at some point struggled to speak properly or to balance and coordinate himself.”

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