The Spirit of Hong Kong Awards is an annual celebration that shines a spotlight on the unsung heroes of our community. Co-organized by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and Sino Group, this event acknowledges the extraordinary achievements of ordinary individuals who inspire others with their actions and embody the true spirit of Hong Kong. This year, the Hong Kong Deaf Rugby Team has been recognized as finalists, a testament to their remarkable resilience, dedication, and impact on the Hong Kong community.
The reality for many in the deaf community in Hong Kong is often one of marginalization and isolation. The wider community lacks understanding and awareness of the challenges faced by these individuals, leading to a lack of confidence or willingness to interact outside their community. However, the Hong Kong Deaf Rugby Team has stepped up to challenge this status quo.
Using rugby as a medium, the team has undertaken the role of tackling discrimination and isolation faced by the deaf community. They have actively facilitated social inclusion, significantly enhancing the self-esteem and self-confidence of those within the community. Members of the team serve as coaches and role models, promoting the importance of inclusivity and expanding sporting and learning opportunities for children, youth, and adults. Their actions have not only empowered the deaf community but also driven social awareness among the general populace.
Despite the fact that Hong Kong is home to 155,000 hearing-impaired individuals, there are only seven 'official' deaf national sports teams. Deaf athletes in Hong Kong aren't eligible for the Elite Training Grant for Athletes with Disabilities sponsorships. Regardless of these challenges, the Hong Kong Deaf Rugby Team remains undeterred in their pursuit of excellence. Their determination led them to launch a fundraising initiative to represent Hong Kong at the Deaf Rugby 7s World Cup in Argentina in April 2023.
Sport has the power to transcend language, cultural, and social barriers, acting as a catalyst for equality, integration, and social inclusion. The Hong Kong Deaf Rugby Team has leveraged this power to its full potential. Their efforts have helped transform community attitudes about disability by highlighting skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability before the person.
In a world where assumptions about what individuals with disabilities can and cannot do persist, the Hong Kong Deaf Rugby Team is reframing the narrative. They continue to portray sportspeople in a positive context, challenging and reshaping assumptions and promoting a more inclusive society.
The Hong Kong Deaf Rugby Team's recognition as finalists in the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards is a symbol of their significant contribution to society. Their journey serves as a ray of optimism and inspiration, reminding us all of the power of resilience, inclusivity, and the human spirit.