Noura Nasser, the SEKEM teacher had recently won the first place at a national Para Powerlifting Championship, governed by the Egyptian Paralympic Committee. The competition was between disability challengers representing ten sport clubs. Among them was Noura, who played for the Egyptian Cairo Club. The small Noura, who is dependent on crutches since her childhood, won the women’s competitions in the category 40 kg after lifting the amount of 57 kg.
Three years ago, Noura got featured in our series “People in SEKEM”, as a former SEKEM student, and current teacher at SEKEM’s Special Education Program. Today, the reliable SEKEM member is back in the news, telling her personal development journey. With her inspiring words, Noura talks about challenges and opportunities she finds as a disability challenger in the Egyptian community and of course about her impressive sports career.
SEKEM News: Five gold, two silver, and one bronze are your medal harvest so far in the Para Powerlifting Sport. That’s in addition to several certificates and accolades. How long did it take to become such a competitive champion? And how did it all start?
Noura Nasser: I started seven years ago. One day, I was on my way back from university when Tharwat Sadek, a Paralympic coach first saw me at a public bus station, holding my crutches, as usual. He stopped by and asked me to join his team at a training field in Zagazig governorate, nearby my house. He was confident that I have strong muscles, saying that the crutches are my muscle builders. That was quite astonishing for me, however, I decided to give it a try and explore my capabilities one more time.
SEKEM News: When was your first time then to test your power?
Noura Nasser: Actually, I didn’t believe that I have power or strong muscles when I was a child. My utmost dream back then was to go to school, as during that time it was not common in Egypt that people with a disability visit schools at all. But, luckily my father enrolled me to the SEKEM School one day. There, I found the opportunity to learn and develop and was strongly supported by my teachers. Also, my colleagues at school sometimes carried me or put me on their bikes to join them playing. Like that, I developed a lot of power – inside and outside!
SEKEM News: What about your experience at the university? Did you find similar support?
Noura Nasser: As a disabled student, I found limited choices among the Zagazig university departments when I wanted to join. That was due to the strict Higher Education System. For instance, I was not allowed to join study courses that demand practical assessments in laboratories, as people think that it could be burdensome for them. Besides, the university was two hours away from home, and the public transportation I used to take was hardly accessible to me. Yet, I didn’t give up and joined the department of Psychology there from which I successfully graduated.
“Life is fair to those who believe in themselves and appreciate opportunities!”
SEKEM News: Being a champion requires devotion to training, but you work full-time as a teacher at SEKEM School for Children with Special Needs. How do you coordinate between such a demanding job and training for the championships?
Noura Nasser: I don’t find my job as demanding as it appears. I can understand my students, not only because of my psychology studies, but I know the struggles they face in the outer community from my own experience. SEKEM believes in the right of each individual to be an equal member in the community, and leaves no one behind. That’s why I found encouragement from my managers at SEKEM School to participate in championships. In the beginning, I used to train after work, during the weekends and vacations at a training yard close to my house. But currently, I train at home, as I equipped a room and my coach, Mohamed El-Sayed, follows up with me on the phone. I hope someday I can represent Egypt in the World Para Powerlifting Championship.
SEKEM News: Do you spend all your free time with training then?
Noura Nasser: No, I also play music on the violin or the flute, which I started to learn when I was a SEKEM student. And I still need the music as a kind of balance to my daily routine – it enriches me a lot.
SEKEM News: Public Egyptian schools are unfortunately lacking such opportunities. What do you think is missing in the community to give the right support to children with special needs?
Noura Nasser: In general, the Egyptian society needs more awareness towards those kids. The schools and universities are still marginalizing handicapped children. We are not burdens. We deserve equal opportunities in education and work, rather than being discriminated. And this starts already at home. Families should understand that if they have a disabled child, they should support it in different ways, especially psychologically with giving them the feeling that they are of the same value as any other child. I was blessed with my parents who were always on my side and helped me a lot.
SEKEM News: Which message do you try to convey to your students at SEKEM?
Noura Nasser: I tell them that they will always hear people naming them disadvantaged or saying that life is unfair as a justification for their case. But actually, life is fair to those who believe in their potential and appreciate given opportunities. So, they should keep strong and never stop trying, because they are truly unique and even blessed with superpowers.
Interview: Noha Hussein