More than 1.2 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities in an enjoyable way.
The Special Olympics movement is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences. As a result, Unified Sports aims to join people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
As Disability Week approaches and with International Day of Persons with a Disability on December 3, there is a strong push for Samoa to ratify the Convention on the Rights for People with Disabilities (CPRD), an important step in the development and growth of our nation.
We often hear time and time again that the youth are our future, they can change, shape and transform the world as we know it and Samauga Primary School students are making leaps and bounds to ensure it is a positive and bright future for Samoa.
Special Olympics Samoa held Monthly Games in Samauga, Savai’i on Thursday, 17th of November. There was a real sense of unity led by Samauga Primary School students and teachers as the entire school joined in with the athletes during the games. On and off the field athletes and students shared in laughter and joy as music lifted their spirits to dance and move together. Those spectating were able to witness no divisions and a real beauty in the diversity of the people taking the time to acknowledge, embrace and celebrate one another’s uniqueness.
The team was accompanied by 3 Physiotherapist students from Denmark, Anders Holm Kallehauge, Patrick Jesperson and Jacob Carlsaek the second collaboration Special Olympics Samoa has had with volunteers from Projects Abroad following the involvement of 10 student nurses from Australia earlier in the month. Collaborations with other local partners has also been an invaluable asset for Special Olympics Samoa with Red Cross and Samoa International Cricket Association (SICA) supporting the team during the Monthly Games looking after the health and wellbeing of each athlete and running Cricket skills and development activities for participants.
There is a huge demand for the work organisations like Special Olympics Samoa are carrying out. Not everyone gets to travel to International games, so the programs run locally especially those at the grass roots level allows each participant to feel valued and a part of something exciting and positive. These programs also include mini-games which engage unemployed youth, families and unified partners to work with teams directly, and competition and tournaments bringing together teams in both Upolu and Savai’i to share in a moment of laughter and create a sense of encouragement.
The Physiotherapist students from Denmark commented, “Today was a special day for us. We can see that you are all very proud of your culture in the way that you all share and care for each other. Being a part of these games has been an awesome experience and we hope you (athletes) continue to be active and take part in activities like Special Olympics Samoa sports to continue to stay healthy.”
Director of Special Olympics Samoa Tusitina Nu’uvali added, “Sharing what Special Olympics Samoa is about with the students and teachers of Samauga Primary School was a real highlight and golden opportunity for our team. Knowing that we have unified partners in each of them now makes events like these all worth while.” The team looks forward to more schools in Upolu and Savai’i being involved in the future, promoting and celebrating a safe and inclusive environment for all people.