Washington, D.C., 13 December 2022 - Special Olympics has launched their second annual “Faces of Inclusion” books highlighting individuals impacted by the organization’s Unified Schools programming, which is a school offering Special Olympics Unified Sports. These sports provide opportunity for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to compete on the same team, offering a quick path to friendship and understanding of differences. The organization will release two books online, available 13 December 2022, featuring 16 total stories of people with and without intellectual disabilities across the globe, documenting inclusion in education.
“Faces of Inclusion” is a Special Olympics storytelling initiative that highlights the impact of global Unified Schools programming through the lens of its key communities—students, coaches, teachers, parents and partnerships. Currently focused on two international projects, the Global Campaign for Inclusion (in collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation) and the Global Center for Inclusion in Education (in collaboration with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of U.A.E, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces), these stories put the faces of the many lives and communities forever changed through the transformative power of Special Olympics programming.
“Both the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of U.A.E, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces have created unprecedented change in education since 2018, impacting nearly a million youth around the world. Having the quantitative data certainly helps showcase the impact of inclusive education from both grants, but we want to highlight the stories behind the numbers with Faces of Inclusion. With this campaign, we want other youth, teachers, and members of local communities to hear from people just like them being impacted by Special Olympics in hopes that they can relate and create opportunities similar to those enrolled in Unified Schools.”
For over four years and spanning across 26 countries, the nearly one million youth participating in Unified Schools programming have seen great change in themselves and their communities. Since 2020, more than 634,000 youth and over 10,500 coaches and teachers have gone through inclusive education programing in Unified Schools. Capturing and sharing their stories with local and global communities has been a priority to inspire and connect individuals with others just like them.
The grants have provided the ability to expand programming in 2023 to 11 additional countries—Australia, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Poland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Slovakia, Trinidad and Tobago. See a full list of all countries that offer Unified Schools programming. Read all 16 stories referenced in the book, a downloadable version is also available.
Samples of stories in the 2022 Faces of Inclusion Book
Changing Mindsets in Jamaica: Cecil’s Journey
Cecil Hamilton, a principal at a rural primary school in central Jamaica, didn’t have experience working with people with intellectual disabilities until he was a teacher and volunteered at a special education school. “It helped me to change my perception about what we think about students with special needs, and the need for inclusion in our own schools throughout Jamaica.”
Spreading Awareness in Argentina: Pablo and Ana’s Story
Pablo, a Special Olympics athlete leader and journalist, and Ana, a staff member at Special Olympics Argentina, have teamed up to oversee the Program’s digital magazine, which is written and created by athletes in order to break down misconceptions of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Achieving a Voice in the Media: Special Olympics Rwanda’s Story
Special Olympics Rwanda initiated partnerships with several media outlets across the country to report on Program activities in both English and Kinyarwanda, in hopes of recruiting new athletes to participate in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools. With continued efforts to promote the message of inclusion in classrooms, across media channels, and in the homes of families with loved ones with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics Rwanda is well on its way to reshaping the landscape for inclusion throughout the country.
Developing Changemakers for Inclusion: Special Olympics Thailand’s Story
Through coordination with the Business Computer Science department of Lampang Rajabhat University, 27 Youth Leaders have joined Special Olympics Thailand’s Youth Activation program. Over the past few months, they’ve applied their academic skills to create a set of 2-D animation learning tools via digital multimedia—an innovative learning development tool for the over 60 people with ID who attend the nearby Lampang Special Education Center. The program provides many Youth Leaders with their first experiences in working with and learning about the challenges people with intellectual disabilities face in Thai society.
Public Speaking Club in Mongolia Gives Students a Voice
On a weekly basis, club members meet with students with intellectual disabilities and work on improving their speaking skills. The students learn how to introduce themselves, how to communicate through drawings, and even study English. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t deterred the lessons from happening, as students with and without intellectual disabilities have continued to meet online to work together.
100 Schools United for Inclusion: Special Olympics Romania’s Story
On World Down Syndrome Day (21 March), Special Olympics Romania coordinated with 100 schools in 16 counties to spread awareness about Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. Students and educators at Unified Champion Schools wore mismatched socks of all colors as a fun way to celebrate people who are different. By dressing in a way that many people typically don’t, educators used this visual example as a tool to educate students on intellectual disabilities.
Creating Leaders of Inclusion: Special Olympics Egypt’s Story
A group of nine people with and without intellectual disabilities make up Special Olympics Egypt’s Youth Leaders Council. Over the past two years, the Youth Leaders Council has represented the interests of Special Olympics Egypt athletes and partners. The council is a collection of leaders for inclusion; members use this platform to express their opinions, promote ideas to benefit their peers, and develop their own professional capabilities.
About Special Olympics
Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedInand our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.