Emanuelle Dutra Fernandes de Souza shares many hobbies with other young people her age: she likes listening to music, and keeping up with her favorite TV shows. She plays soccer and beach volleyball, and works as an administrative assistant in a human resources department. But this 21-year old Brazilian is also a Special Olympics athlete, winner of numerous medals, and a newly-elected Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger!
When Emanuelle (or Manu, as she likes to be called) was 2 years old, she had seizure which left her in a coma for a week. After she went back home, her parents noticed that Manu was acting differently; walking and talking were more difficult for her. The seizures increased in frequency, so doctors recommended not only more therapy, but also moving to a calmer place. Manu´s family decided to leave their home behind, and relocate to Rio Das Ostras.
In this new city, Manu’s health and life begun to improve notably, especially after her mother, Debora Dutra, became involved with the Associação de Pais e Amigos dos Excepcionais (the Association of Parents and Friends of People with Disabilities – APAE). Manu became involved in sports, and discovered her love for soccer and beach volleyball, training almost daily. This led to her discovery by Special Olympics in 2013, during the development of soccer programs and competitions in Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.
From that moment on, Manu became deeply involved in Special Olympics initiatives; she participated in the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles, where she won a bronze medal in soccer; she also represented the region at the Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Forum in Baku in 2018, Azerbaijan, along with her Unified Sports partner, Leticia Maciel. There, they lead a project to introduce Unified Sports to students at Leticia’s high school. That same year, she also played in the Unified World Cup in Chicago, where she got a silver medal. Her constant training and competing in beach volleyball also led her to qualify to attend the World Games in Abu Dhabi.
“I like to practice sports, make new friends, travel, listen to the people, talk to them. And I want to be a Sargent Shriver Global Messenger because I think I need to give a voice to the athletes that don't have the opportunity to be listened. I want to be this person that listens and speaks for them: I want to be their voice. We can change society. It can be better for us and for everybody.”