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The SPAT project began in 2009 in Ethiopia, initiated by the Dutch NGOs Lydia Zijdel Foundation and Respo International, actively supported by Windesheim University of Applied sciences. 

Ms Lydia Zijdel is an expert on sports for people with a disability, especially related to self-defense. She is a wheelchair user and the highest graded female Aikido practitioner with a disability in the world. Her charitable foundation has developed the SPAT project together with Respo International, an NGO related to the Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle, The Netherlands. Together they selected and trained twenty-two men and women with a disability in Ethiopia, between 2009-2011. They were supported by several partners like Circusschool Hannes and the sports faculty of Windesheim University. The Ethiopian NGO Dires for Development was responsible for the local implementation of the project in Ethiopia.

2011 - 2016

In the period 2011-2016 the SPAT project was carried out on 24 special need schools and 2 rehabilitation centers in and around Addis Ababa, the Capital city of Ethiopia. Every week the project reached an average of two thousand children with a disability. Thanks to this project, a whole generation of children with a disability in Ethiopia were raised with sports and movement, which was not common practice previously. Besides the school activities, large inclusive sports events were organized, which contributed to creating positive awareness about having a disability in Ethiopia. During this time the project was completely financed by Respo International.

2016 - 2019

From 2016 subsidies for the SPAT project declined sharply, and as a consequence many activities had to be downsized. The number of participating schools was limited and fewer events were organized. Following these developments, a new strategy of social entrepreneurship was introduced. A new vision was created that could allow Dires for Development to generate their own income to sustain the SPAT project, instead of solely relying on donations and subsidies. The Ethiopia Experience (TEX) was established as a tour and travel company in cooperation with Dires for Development and professionals in the tourism industry. TEX’s mission was to generate income for Dires for Development by organizing tours and travel programs within the country. Step by step, this initiative proved to be successful and Dires for Development managed to become less dependent on donors and to generate more income through TEX every year.


In 2019, the SPAT project celebrated its 10th anniversary, a conference and an inclusive sports festival were organized in Addis Ababa for this occasion. In that year the main donor Respo International ceased to exist and The Long Trail took over full responsibility for all operations and finances. In 2019, half of the budget for SPAT was generated through the travel company TEX, and half came from donations. Especially the contribution of the Dutch charity ‘Vrienden van Effatha’ was essential.

In the same year, the SPAT project was also introduced in Kenya, in the Kwale region in the Southeast of the country. The project is there specifically aimed at Deaf and hard of hearing people and is coordinated from the Deaf Centre, a social project for Deaf people that was established by the Dutch NGOs Umoja Foundation and ‘t Groenland. The Deaf Centre has sports accommodations and a guesthouse.

2020 - 2021

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic all income supplied through tourism has stopped, and this has led to acute financial problems for the project in Ethiopia. Thanks to extra support from Vrienden van Effatha, the project is still active in Ethiopia. We are currently searching for new donors and other ways to generate income to sustain long-term goals with the SPAT project.

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In 2021 the SPAT project exists for twelve years. Help us to sustain the project for the next twelve years!

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