“It is truly lead by the athletes” – The Athlete Leadership Program
A hotbed of Ideas
This is where it starts, in a classroom with a group of youths, laughing, teasing each other, working on posters to activate volunteers. The facilitator calls them to order, to share what they’ve discussed. The youths debate passionately. Some are intimate with the topic, having gone through it themselves. One talks about inclusion, and the importance of respect. Another argues for the opportunity to show their abilities. What about our health, pipes up another. They show off their brightly designed posters. After a rallying cheer, they pose for a group photo, united in yet another rewarding session.
This is where ideas are seeded. This is where leaders are bred.
Indonesia's year of Progress
A platform to engage youths with and without intellectual disabilities, the Athlete Leadership Program (ALP) provides educational programs for Special Olympics athletes in a variety of leadership topics, develops their interpersonal skills, builds up their self esteem and moulds them into well- rounded individuals. Youth leaders unite with athletes in meaningful experiences, helping them gain a better perspective of Special Olympics’ work. Armed with this knowledge, they can then create attitude change attitudes in communities.
Globally, ALPs participation stands at 28,896, as of 2011. In Asia Pacific, the Program is in its infancy, with 1,435 participants. The region is working on introducing ALPs in more Asia Pacific countries. One such Program is Special Olympics Indonesia.
Special Olympics Indonesia started ALPs in 2002, but lacked the manpower and funds to fully develop the Program. In 2011, the Program relaunched its activities, with a multi- pronged approach to increase athlete and volunteer membership, and corporate sponsorships.
To engage athletes, it ran monthly speaking clubs, with various topics like Volunteering and Divisioning, poster making activities, and photo sessions. They conducted a series of ‘ALPs goes to school’, visiting five special schools in three months, to explain the concept to students.
To engage youth and seek volunteers, The program staff spoke at the local Tarumanagara University’s school of Physiology, introducing Special Olympics’ mission and explaining how they students could help ALPs activities. Special Olympics Indonesia reached out to families as well, speaking in a seminar to urge parents of children with intellectual disability to register them to with the ALPs speaking club.
The reinvigorated effort is led by volunteer Anastasia Retno (Nana), and she is passionate about progressing ALPs involvement in Indonesia. She shares her thoughts on the process:
What are the difficulties Special Olympics Indonesia has running the program? How do you overcome them?
Lack of funds to run the activities is a major challenge. Special Olympics Indonesia concentrates its existing funds on sport activities, understandably a top priority. So there is not much left funds for ALPs activities. We’re fortunate to run our Jakarta events at no cost, parents of athletes sponsor meals, universities provide classroom venues, volunteers provide transportation. If we extend the ALPs events to other provinces in Indonesia, we will need funding for the activities.
Do you see improvement in ALPs athletes?
We have two athletes, Yofan Aditya, and Rizka Feryani, who have been withthe ALPs Speaking Club since its early days.
Yofan is a great speaker, opinionated and proactive. He attended the Global Youth Activation Summit at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, and benefitted greatly from the experience. These days, I can brief him just an hour before the event.
With Rizka, it takes longer to encourage her to open up and talk about her athlete experience on stage. But she’s progressed well since the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Leaders Conference in April.
Can you share with us: what was a rewarding moment for you during the ALPs process?
I have many! The most rewarding moment for me is the athletes’ enthusiasm. I get their calls and texts, asking “Sis Nana, when is the next Speaking Club?” That question makes me realize how much ALPs means to them.
During discussions, I am amazed by the athletes’ answers; they are proud of their achievements and are free with their opinions. I have great support from Special Olympics Indonesia’s Board members, athlete families, coaches and volunteers. It makes me want to keep going for the Program’s success!
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