The European Project UNIFY pilot program was kicked off with a meeting in Rome/Italy November 15-17. Representatives from the four involved Special Olympics National Programs –Austria, Italy, Romania, Serbia – gathered with Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia and Special Olympics International staff members who are leading this project to finalize the project roll-out. Support was given by Dr Sandra Dowling, University of Ulster, who is accompanying the Project UNIFY implementation in Europe with an evaluation project and Italian youth leaders Lelia Bellesini, athlete, and Sveva Cintio, volunteer, 18.
Project UNIFY is a strategy that uses the sports and education programs of Special Olympics to activate young people in order to promote school and local communities where all young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Project UNIFY was launched in the USA in 2007. The 2011-2013 Project UNIFY pilot in Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia has been made possible by Stephanie and Ray Lane.
Project UNIFY initiatives include a number of core activities, both on the national and on the grass-roots level. 3200 young people, coaches and educators in 250 schools and local sports clubs are targeted to get actively engaged in this project in the four European countries between November 2011 and April 2013.
Roxana Ossian, representative of Special Olympics Romania stated: „It was good and important to have this meeting. We know now what homework everyone needs to do. We also could discuss all details and questions at the beginning of the project“.