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Inclusion Can Change Lives

Chutipa in a blue, red, and white team shirt playing table tennis.

A life-changing experience that reunited me with my long-lost mother.

My name is Chutipa Phansuwan. My family and friends call me Jay. I am 15 years old.

I was born with an intellectual disability, and my mother left me when I was only 11 months old. Since then, I have been under the care of my paternal grandmother and my father. My grandmother helps my father, who works as a laborer, supplement the household income by recycling and selling discarded materials.

Because of their hard work, I’ve been able to attend a special school in Thailand. Like most government special schools, it is a boarding school. I go home twice a year to visit my father and grandmother during school vacations. Growing up without being close to my family wasn’t easy. I lacked confidence, and often doubted myself.

Fortunately, through my school, I was introduced to Special Olympics and started training in table tennis when I was ten. Apart from table tennis, I’ve also picked up football and athletics.

Sport became a friend to me. It invigorated and empowered me, and so I always tell myself that I have to train hard. The best reward comes when I get selected to represent my school in competitions.

Recently, I was chosen to represent Thailand in table tennis at the upcoming 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, in March. There, I’ll be playing with my Unified partner, who is someone without intellectual disabilities. We are one of two Unified pairs representing Thailand.

This trip marks the very first time I will be flying out of my country, and I had to apply for a passport. However, as I am still a minor, it means I needed the consent of both my parents. And thus, the search for my mother began.

My coach contacted a friend who works in the local police force to help. It was a miracle that after several weeks, they managed to track my mother down. She is now living in a different province that is quite far away, working as a laborer in a rubber plantation.

The reunion wasn’t easy for my mother as she now has a new family and they are not aware of her past. But she eventually signed the documents to give her consent so I can apply for my passport. Since then, I have spoken to her on the phone a few times, and I’m thrilled to be reunited with her.

I feel so happy that I now have a mother, just like other children. I cannot even begin to describe the joy I feel.

#MeetTheDetermined: Chutipa Phansuwan

And because of this, I can also now make my way to competing on an international stage for the first time. My father and grandmother are very proud that I will be representing my country as the only female athlete on the Thai table tennis team.

Whatever the outcome is, I already feel like a champion. It is beyond my wildest dreams that I would one day be able to represent Thailand on the world stage, to have a chance to bring home a medal, and do my country and my family proud. By providing an inclusive environment, Special Olympics allows athletes like me to shine. It’s my dream that this environment will one day be extended to the world and change lives, just as it changed mine.

Re-posted with permission from Human R.A.C.E.