Sports Programs for Local Communities and for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

At all Howe International Friendship League (HIFL) events, we strive to ensure that we leave a lasting impact on the local communities we visit.  Prior to each event, we speak with local community members to identify priorities, and align them with our own capabilities.

Participants of the Friendship League can feel proud knowing that their vacation helped contribute to the local community that they visited.  We allocate part of the proceeds to help achieve our sports programs for local communities and for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Sports Program for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

The Howe International Consulting Group (HICG) and its subsidiary, the Howe International Friendship League, have a long history of supporting programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  During the first annual DPRK ice hockey tournament, we partnered with local organizations to run a sports program for children with intellectual disabilities at a children’s center in Pyongyang.  Prior to engaging in this project, we were unsure what to expect.  To our delight, we were met by parents and caregivers with the same aspirations for the children that we witness in Canada.

This experience inspired us to continue our efforts, with the hope of encouraging the adoption of similar programs across the country and supporting their development.  In the near future, we hope to prepare local people and athletes for their first international competitions.

It is our belief that, by focusing efforts on the development of sport and physical activities, DPRK athletes with intellectual disabilities will be able to participate in upcoming international events.  Through success in sport and thanks to wide public exposure, a more comprehensive program could then emerge and lead to long term improvements in the condition of individuals living with intellectual disabilities.


The primary objective of the DPR Korea Sport Program for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities is to use a shared passion for sport as a medium to foster sustainable integration and long-term social inclusion of children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Project outcomes

During the first DPRK ice hockey tournaments organized in March 2016 and 2017 , it was our intention to facilitate the introduction of a leading disability organization to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). A high-ranking representative was in attendance and conducted workshops in-country for children with intellectual disabilities. The event was a great success, and one that we believe will lead to further cooperation.


  • Initiate consultation with DPRK officials with respect to potential areas of cooperation aimed at benefiting individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Meet and conduct a series of workshops for children with intellectual disabilities from the Korean Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities.
  • Explore opportunities to develop programs for adults with an intellectual disability.
  • Discuss modalities for future long-term collaboration between the DPRK and this organization as well as with other stakeholders.

Target and objective


Our objective is to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through participation in sport. Studies have consistently shown that when individuals with disabilities are engaged in sports, they live healthier, happier and longer.

Building upon previous successes

We believe we can build upon the success of the DPR Korea Sport Programs for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities held from 7-12 March 2016, to foster further collaboration between the DRPK and international organizations working towards improving the living conditions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

If we are successful in mobilizing relevant entities, both on the international stage and among the DPRK authorities, we expect a larger-scale program to be designed, funded and implemented in the DPRK to benefit individuals with a disability by providing them with the opportunity to participate in sports.

Consultations have recently been held with a leading disability organization who has expressed interest in efforts to build long term connections, programs, and opportunities in the DPRK. Additionally, there remains a multitude of organizations with similar mandates and capabilities that may be willing to provide funding. Following the introduction of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, NGO’s and philanthropists globally are taking an increased interest in sports for persons with intellectual disabilities, and therefore the opportunities could be plentiful.

Fundraising and allocation of funds

We raise funds that we allocate to our sports programs to run workshops in-country, provide our local partners with appropriate equipments to improve their own programs and facilitate dialogue between leading organizations working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and local governmental organisations with the objective of implementing long-term and large-scale projects to better integrate fragile populations into the society.

The donation represents from 20 to 25% of the participation fee. The rest of the fee are used to cover the costs associated with organizing the events. The sport programs are run internally in order to have full control over how funds are allocated.

As a young initiative starting from scratch, several aspects of the program, including fund allocation to in-country partners, remain to be the defined due to a lengthy and complex negotiation process with local officials. We are currently discussing with our DPRK counterparts to identify a unique point of contact to collaborate on our programs in and contribute financially to the work of local organizations. It is indeed our intention to work closely with local actors in order to foster the reach, sustainability and efficiency of our initiative.

What is intellectual disability?

Intellectual disability is characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behaviour, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills.

We do no testing on athletes to ensure that they qualify for competition, however individuals with intellectual disabilities are generally recognized as those who meet the following three criteria:

  • IQ is below 70-75
  • There are significant limitations in two or more adaptive areas (skills that are needed to live, work, and play in the community, such as communication or self-care).
  • The condition manifests itself before the age of 18

Disabled integration and social inclusion


Sport allows individuals with disabilities the opportunity to discover new strengths and talents, remain active members of the community, and most importantly – live healthier lives. The WHO and the World Bank collaborate to produce the first extensive report on the welfare of individuals with disabilities globally. The ‘World Report on Disability’ concluded that many barriers and disadvantages faced by individuals with disabilities are avoidable or can be overcome.

We strongly feel that developing a program focused on individuals with intellectual disabilities will contribute to promoting a positive image of the social rehabilitation programs in the DPRK. A positive perception of those programs amongst the international community globally will make similar projects in the future easier to fund, and will encourage further support for engagement with the DPRK.

With additional support, we believe that the DPR Korea Sport Programs for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities could be an excellent opportunity for the DPRK to begin participation in international development programs in general and the increasingly prestigious world of sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities in particular. We encourage the participation of all kind of actors including civil society organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations to ensure that related programs reach their full potential and are implemented in a sustainable manner.

Programs for athletes with disabilities

A program for athletes with a disability would be a unique opportunity to showcase the capacity of DPR Korean athletes with a disability to meet international standards and develop support structures including aspects such as:

  • Parent/Guardian Awareness Seminars
  • Official Consultations
  • Training for Future Coaches
  • Athlete Introductory Sessions


The World Report on Disability recommended, inter alia, that efforts need to be directed towards increasing public awareness and understanding. Visiting experts in issues affecting individuals with disability could conduct the seminars aimed at informing participants about the benefits derived from physical activity for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Participants could also be given the opportunity to approach experts with any questions they may have.


DPR Koreans interested in improving the existing programs and infrastructure (or initiating new programs) for athletes with intellectual disabilities will need the support of the relevant officials in order to succeed with their ambitions. An expert group could meet with local officials to discuss the need for programs and suggest potential steps that can be taken to establish a permanent program in that particular field.


It is important to acknowledge that not all athletes with intellectual disabilities will go on to compete internationally. For most athletes, training and completion will be local. It is therefore important to ensure that appropriate coach training opportunities are provided to ensure that every athlete has a positive and beneficial experience. Coaches and managers for athletes with intellectual disabilities need to possess an additional skill set beyond what their usual duties would require. Expert teams could run series of workshops aimed at familiarizing potential coaches with disabled sport.


Sessions could be held with the aim of introducing individuals with intellectual disabilities to the world of sports. In consultation with DPRK representatives, sessions could be developed to match local needs, facilities, and interests. While it could be entertaining for the athletes, it would also help build support for the initiation/continuation of similar projects in the near future.

It is our hope that, by introducing the local community to the concept, we will be able to gather sufficient support to establish a long-term relationship between international sporting organizations and the DPRK.

Series of In-country Workshops for Children with Intellectual Disabilities | March 2016
How can we help you?

Please feel free to contact us with any question or concern you might have regarding our events.

Call for female participation in the PIHL

The Pyongyang Ice Hockey League is an incredible opportunity to go down in history as one of the first female hockey players to play against the DPRK Women National Team! Don’t miss out.

Sport has a unique way of forging cross-cultural connections where few previously existed. Join us to bring changing perspectives in the lives of remote communities.

Gordon Israel
Managing Partner, Howe International
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