Professional photojournalist Midhat Poturovic was awarded the Superhero Without A Cape Sports Photography Award for his work featuring special needs children in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Ismail Zulfic breaks taboos on a daily basis. The 8-year-old from Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, was born without arms and with deformities of both feet, but he's cheerfully made a place for himself at school, on his swim team, and in his community.
Ismail is growing up in a society where differences are not accepted easily -- but it's the existence of prejudice that Ismail and his family refuse to accept.
His family is like many others in Bosnia: his father, Ismet, works, while his mother, Elmina, stays home to take care of the children. Elmina has taught Ismail how to handle the curiosity of other kids, who sometimes ask hurtful questions, like "Where are your hands?"
With the help and persistence of his parents, new worlds have opened up for Ismail. Three years ago, he was afraid of water, but just one year of training turned him into a fearless swimmer and the regional champion at a competition in Croatia. Since then, he's gone on to win more medals, along with the admiration of friends and relatives.
"His smile is priceless. I watch him laugh while he swims the backstroke. He does it unconsciously," his father says. "And as long it makes him feel that way, we will support him. He is strong enough for all of us. He never needs to sleep."
Playing sports is one of the important factors in preserving the health of children and adults and creating work and defense skills, which further influences future social inclusion and adult life possibilities.
In November 2015, swimming coach Amel Kapo founded a club called "Spid" in Sarajevo to provide opportunities for children with disabilities. The club is free for members and relies on grants from foreign donors. This is the first club of its kind in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it's unique. These people will never say that they can't do anything. It's only society that sees obstacles."
"Ismail's story is a heroic form of struggle," psychologist Edin Dzanko says. "Unfortunately, this struggle is dependent on the commitment of the family and (other) individuals."
Ismail's parents, teachers, and coaches have all helped him get the most out of school and playtime, but there are many other kids who receive little or no such support. Only a fraction of children with disabilities receives special assistance at school and in their home life.
"A study done in 2015 shows that in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 23 percent of children have some form of atypical development, which means that every fourth child does not develop typically in at least one area. If money is not invested in education at the earliest age, with time it becomes more and more expensive," Dzanko says. "If the state invests 1 million marks (500,000 euros) in that 23 percent of children, it will save millions over the next 10 years."
Midhat Poturovic is an award-winning photojournalist, president of the Association of Photographers in Bosnia and Herzegovina BH, and documentarian. His passion for photography began as a student, and grew out of his passion for story-telling of humanity, successes & failures, as well as the post conflict realities of his native region.