A team of para-athletes has joined Enel in Brazil this year as part of the company’s Diversity Programme, which aims to insert athletes into the job market so they can gain experience and have better opportunities when they retire from sport. A total of 17 para-athletes are working at the company headquarters in Niterói and at facilities in São Gonçalo and Cabo Frio.
Current Brazilian and Pan-American record-holder in the long jump, 38-year-old Pedro Paulo Neves is one of the para-athletes hired by Enel in Brazil. He suffered from cerebral palsy at birth and has an atrophied right arm as a result. Neves engaged in sport through the Niterói Association for the Physically Disabled (Associação Niteroiense dos Deficientes Físicos – Andef), going first into football and then swimming, but it was in athletics that he found his true vocation as a para-athlete. He tried running and then the long jump, which he competes in since 2011. In his first event two years later he reached the 5.54m mark, breaking a Brazilian record that had lasted for 16 years.
Today considered the fifth-best long jumper in the world, Pedro Paulo has been taking part in competitions that can help him achieve his biggest goal: qualify for the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016. According to the classification criteria, athletes have until July 17th to achieve the minimum distance and join the Brazilian delegation at the Games. In the first national stage of the Caixa Loterias Circuit in May, organised by the Brazilian Paralympic Committee, Pedro Paulo broke his own record after jumping 5.82m.
“Since 2007 I have practiced daily to achieve this dream. I won gold in the long jump at the Para-Pan-American Games in Toronto in 2015 and I want to repeat that achievement here in Brazil,” he comments, highlighting the opportunity Enel Brasil’s programme has afforded him. “When I learned about it I identified with the proposal and know it will be essential for my future. It’s not just a programme for disabled people. I am proud because I can see the company is really keen to collaborate with the athletes’ professional growth,” adds the participant, who studies Business and has more than 120 medals. Pedro works in the Technical Operations area of distributor Ampla and is sponsored by the Masan Institute and has the support of the Parasport Promotion Institute (Instituto de Promoção do Paradesporto – IPP-Brasil).
Another para-athlete, Jorge Veiga Martins is the Brazilian record holder in the high jump and hopes to compete in the Olympic Games in this discipline and in the long jump. He trains daily to win the gold and has over 30 medals since beginning his sporting career in 2010.
“It’s my biggest dream. I’m preparing myself well and believe in my potential. It will be very emotional but I will try to stay focused and work on my psychology to be calm. I was on the bus when my tutor called to tell me about the pre-qualification. I was so happy I had to get off to cry and celebrate,” he says.
Jorge was born with a malformed right arm and participates in five or six competitions a year, having finished first many times.
Since they started working at the company, the para-athletes work 12 hours a week. The idea is for the employees to fit in practice sessions and competitions with the work routine. The athletes are allocated to different departments within the firm.
Marcelo de Oliveira Santos is 35 years old and works in Enel Brasil’s Sustainability department. He became paraplegic after a traffic accident in 2004, when he was run over by a drunk driver. Years later, in 2011, he became interested in the outrigger canoe and began taking part in competitions, both as a solo athlete and in six-men teams. In 2012 he became South American vice-champion in the singles category in an event in Peru.
The para-athlete has more than 20 medals and trains twice a week as well as Saturdays on a canoe borrowed from a friend. With a degree in Education, he highlights how happy he is with his new work environment: “Of all the opportunities I have been given this is undoubtedly the best. The work is much better than I expected it to be and to be part of such a significant Group is gratifying. I’m working hard to do my best and repay them with good results for the company.”
Forty-year-old Sandoval Francisco da Silva has dedicated himself to wheelchair basketball since 1994. He has taken part in two Paralympic Games (Beijing and Athens), has been crowned Brazilian Cup champion three times, has won bronze in the Para-Pan-American Games of 2002 and collects others titles. “As an athlete I am used to overcoming challenges and learning a new profession is just another one. Ampla’s programme allows me to have a career following my retirement from sport. I also have flexible hours to continue training. It’s a golden opportunity!“, he celebrates.
About the Inclusion Programme
Enel Brasil’s Diversity Programme currently includes 49 people with disabilities, including the 17 para-athletes. The first group of 32 employees started working for the company in September 2015 after the written and practical stages were concluded. The people with disabilities who aren’t para-athletes also received paid training for 12 months, totalling 960 hours of qualification. In addition to training, participants receive psychological support and other specialist help to identifiy their skills and their personal and professional growth opportunities.
The 17 para-athletes hired as part of the programme underwent one year’s training in partnership with the Free University for Human Efficiency (Universidade Livre para Eficiência Humana – Unilehu). The qualification included behavioural aspects, administrative practices, Portuguese lessons as well as training in IT, legislation and workplace safety, among other subjects. They also had sports, personal and professional coaching, lectures on the energy sector and technical workshops that focused on the development of the participants. They were hired at the start of last year and began then their 12-month paid training of four hours a day.