BUENOS AIRES – The Goleta Bicentennial School Foundation is an educational project of “inclusive water journeys” seeking to “integrate” people with special challenges and “recover values” that have been lost by Argentine society.
The day begins with an orientation session to give the participants some basic knowledge about sailing, and that’s the only requirement – besides being “well rested and with a simple meal” in their stomachs – for undertaking the water adventure, which is held once per month on the Rio Plata by a unique crew.
People with disabilities, those who are socially vulnerable, are recovering from addictions or personality disorders – accompanied by members of the foundation and people who want to help them in this integrative process – say that the experience is “incredible” and “unusual.”
“Assimilating people via sailing. That’s what we’re all about,” Matias Paillot, an Argentine competitor at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics and one of the 21 people who founded the school in October 2010.
The athlete, who has spina bifida and began sailing as a boy, plays a key role on the trips, 31 of which have been run so far.
“Simply by going out on the water, we’re helping them to become aware that one can create new horizons and a (new) empathy,” he said.
“I sum it up in two words: You can do it,” said general sailing coordinator Roman Pellejero, another of the foundation’s key figures, who after a life as an Argentine navy meteorologist didn’t hesitate to join the project.
Pellejero says that this kind of initiative accents values that have become diluted in society such as teamwork, cooperation and communication. One of the keys is to get able people to work with those who have some kind of disability, adding that the experience is “very enriching.”
The project is continuing thanks to more than 200 volunteers, small donations from individuals and benefactors, such as the Buenos Aires city government.