Andrea Stella, Captain of project WOW – Wheels on Waves, has long been considering a sea enterprise to prove that a world without barriers, both architectural and psychological, is a feasible option for everybody. He imagined making the journey on board his catamaran, “The Spirit of Stella”, which, as first vessel in the world to be accessible to people on wheelchairs, was the ideal choice for this mission.
The idea of crossing the Atlantic ocean dawned on him about one year ago, inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first global treatise that acknowledged and protected the rights of the disabled. It was enforced in 2008 and ratified by 166 countries in the world. The scope of the journey was to disseminate the Convention’s contents and promote its application. The route was defined, precisely from New York to Rome, departing from the headquarters of the United Nations to finally meet Pope Francis. Paper was invited on board “The Spirit of Stella” as guest of honour of a six-month long cruise over 1,800 miles, to teach inclusion, equality and peace. At this point the project was defined to involve new supporters and an increasing number of partners. Departure was scheduled for 26 April 2017 from Miami, the city where Andrea Stella lost the ability to use his legs in 2000, with estimated arrival in Venice in October. The journey envisages about twenty stops between the United States and Europe to touch land and celebrate the messages of the Convention with schools, friends and institutions.
Hence, the WOW programme was quite rapidly defined to be broad-ranging, detailed and highly valuable, powerful to the point of convincing several companies, including Pirelli, to support its implementation.
The only matter left to be decided was who, besides Captain Stefano Locci and sailor Matteo Baldi, would form the crew of “The Spirit of Stella” in its transcontinental campaign. One concept was clear to everybody, namely that the catamaran was to gradually host persons with disabilities as testimonials of both the message and scope of the initiative. Each of them was to contribute his or her story and the experience of facing challenges, transformation, resistance and rebirth. But the core message was to be their statement of the right to travel the world without barriers.
Hence the idea of launching a “call to entry” on the WOW website and social networks, inviting men and women from all countries, age groups and cultural backgrounds who possessed miscellaneous skills. The call was addressed to all those who wished to step on board for a lap of the journey, to participate in the initiative as a protagonist.
The response to the “call to entry” surpassed all expectations. Between September 2016 and April 2017, WOW received 170 applications from the far-reaching Web world. Many responded from Italy, and many applications were even submitted from America, Spain, England, Germany and Egypt. The organisers had the opportunity to select crew members from a wealth of diversity and variety. Some were expert sailors, some had a passion for cooking or photography, some were active on social networks and others, instead, were skilled in writing or expert in medicine. A genuine universe of skills was to animate the vessel!
Today “The Spirit of Stella” is crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Its logbook records the travel impressions, inscriptions and good wishes of participants in the American laps.Some of them decided to tell their story with a video. Just like John and Marco who talk about their strength, courage and passion in the two videos we are publishing.