For decades, Nelson Mandela worked for equality in South Africa as an anti-apartheid revolutionary. After becoming President of South Africa, he also became a supporter of Special Olympics.
Mandela described this as a time when "most South African children with disabilities lived in extreme poverty in inhospitable environments. They had very poor access to appropriate health care facilities, social services, justice, education, economic participation and early childhood development opportunities. Often the parents themselves are poor, uneducated and lack the most basic information."
Mandela, along with the Nelson Mandela Children's Foundation, worked with Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Special Olympics to reach out to people with intellectual disabilities and their families as well. Through this joint venture, new opportunities were given to a population that had long been ignored.
In the words of Mandela, "Only 50 years ago persons with intellectual disabilities were scorned, isolated and neglected. Today, they are able to attend school, become employed and assimilate into their local community."