#IDPwD stories: Table tennis seriously changed my life
In a series of stories for International Day of People with Disability featuring participants in our disability-focused programs, Team Up meets Akata Sabusa from Fiji.
In 2017, Akata Sabusa started playing table tennis when a friend invited her to try. “I like table tennis because it is fun to play and is good exercise for my hand. Before playing table tennis, mentally all I could think was ‘no way, I can’t play that’! I thought because physically I did not have enough movement from my hip, making it difficult for me to move my body quickly, to stretch and move from side-to-side, that I could not play. But all that changed when I started playing the game. I loved it because it made me physically strong, healthy, energetic and happy,” explained Sabusa.
“Before I started playing table tennis my family and friends, especially my able-bodied friends, did not believe that I could play any kind of sport. I had never tried before, but when I started telling them about table tennis and that I was practising, they started to change their minds. I invited them to watch me practise and, after that, everything changed.
“Personally, I believe if there is a will and you feel safe, you can achieve a lot in life. I used to think I was in a different world when I was around everyone, keeping quiet and feeling ashamed because of my disability. I felt like people were always looking at me. It is a very common feeling for people with a disability, people act and treat us differently. After I started taking part in table tennis it seriously changed my life. People started approaching me, knowing me, and I started to open myself up, making friends and becoming a better person,” Sabusa said.
She explained that members of her community now look up to her because of her participation in the Team Up-supported Smash Down Barriers program, which is delivered by Fiji Table Tennis Association in partnership with International Table Tennis Federation - Oceania.
“Since joining the program I have become a star in my community. People approach me to talk and share my table tennis experience. My family is more supportive, I have more friends and I feel welcomed everywhere I go. But the most important changes I have seen in myself since starting table tennis are changes to my health and the way people act towards me.”