The Vitality of Youth, the Start of a Movement

In a move to introduce the youth generation Special Olympics and its work for people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics Thailand held its first Youth Conference for 40 undergraduates in Songkhla, South Thailand on 8-9 February, 2014. Special Olympics Asia Pacific Project UNIFY Manager Lynn Tan was invited as a keynote speaker, and shares her experience:

Introducing the Movement

Rajabhat Songkhla University, English Language Faculty undergraduates & ALPs Leaders

Special Olympics Thailand’s first Youth Conference welcomed 40 undergraduates from Rajabhat Songkhla University and Prince of Songkhla University. These enthusiastic students are from the Faculty of Special Education, English Language and Physical Education. The majority of them have had past experiences volunteering for Special Olympics Thailand, for the remainder, it was their first understanding of Special Olympics. Two Athlete Leader Program (ALPS) youth leaders were at conference to work with these undergraduates to guide, plan and develop projects for Special Olympics Thailand in 2014.

Sumran Chamchoi, National Sports Director of Special Olympics Thailand, introduced Special Olympics and its initiatives to the students. Tossapol Tansakul, National & South Thailand Coordinator for Building Communities Program shared the success of ALPs in Special Olympics Thailand and Unified Partner, Nawawee, talked about his Unified Football experience, competing together with Special Olympics Thailand athletes at the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup qualifier.

Rallying a Unified Generation

Students discussed and presented their ideas for Special Olympics Thailand.

As keynote conference speaker, I addressed the importance of educating, motivating and activating youths with all abilities to support Special Olympics.  I led the students through an activity of “What matters most is how you see yourself?” to encourage the young people to identify their strengths and to believe in themselves that they can be the first Unified generation in Thailand.

I also shared examples of community engagements in United States and Asia Pacific to activate youths, for the students to learn and adapt these ideas in their schools and communities.

These young people are part of a tech-savvy generation, using technology for their schoolwork and daily lives. I played on this strength, showing them how they can use social media networks to create greater awareness for Special Olympics and engage more young people to be Unified Sports partners, participate in ‘Respect’ Campaigns, advocate in school assemblies and events and volunteer in Special Olympics events.   

Spreading the Word

The conference group, with Special Olympics Thailand Staff, Volunteers, ALPs youth leaders and Lynn Tan, Special Olympics Asia Pacific Project UNIFY Manager.

For the next steps, the students will set up a Youth Activation Committee (YAC) for each university in the next two months.  Trained ALPs Youth Leaders will also be included in the YAC, to provide an athlete view for the committee. The YAC will publicize its mission, create social networks and recruit members in its university. They will work together to develop activities in school communities, reaching out to more youths to promote inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in schools. The YAC’s immediate plan is to recruit volunteers for Special Olympics Thailand events in the southern part of Thailand, and the Special Olympics Thailand National Games in Korat, Northeast Thailand.

As Sumran puts it: “I believe that this programme will help to drive and sustain the Special Olympics movement because the future belongs to this generation.”

Youth Leaders' Views

Wichuda Poompetch (left) and Maheeba Musor (right).

I learnt a lot about Special Olympics and gained a deeper understanding about social interaction with people with intellectual disability. Sometimes we can overlook small things which can be important. Because of my university course and personal interest, the conference gave me more inspiration to pursue this project and make a commitment. I already plan to spread the information through social networks and am thinking about how to fundraise to support this program.”   
Wichuda Poompetch
Third year Special Education Major
Rajabhat Songkhla University

“The friendship I formed during this conference is very precious and sincere. I also received valuable knowledge on people with ID which I am determined to pass on. I shall start first with my family, and then my friends, my university teachers and my local community. I believe that through proper understanding, and from one person to the next, we can all help to make the world a better place for people with ID.”

Maheeba Musor
Fourth year Physical Education Major
Prince of Songkhla University