Ablaye Ndiaye is one of the stars of his neighborhood in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. Yet, years ago, he was mostly an outcast due to negative beliefs and stereotypes about people with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities.
Senegal is a country with no inclusive public schools; so young learners like Ablaye are turned away when they can’t keep up their grades. But Ablaye’s family didn’t give up on him, nor did his friends. Soon everyone in the neighborhood got to know him—and accept him, then respect him—for all the talents he has.
As his sister recalls, “Our neighbors grew up with him. Maybe from the first sight at the beginning, other people were afraid of his physical appearance. It hurt me when I saw him being treated differently.”
She adds, “But when we took him to Special Olympics sports practice, we all noticed that he was able to do great things.” She says that Ablaye would proudly show everyone his medals after each competition—and people began to realize he had many talents.
In addition to his success in sports, Ablaye has trained as a construction worker and is able to help support his family thanks to this job. He’s now also part of the local social scene. As a friend puts it, “Ablaye is like our elder brother. He is part of the café group, and we consider him like one of us. We live in perfect harmony.” All of Ablaye’s friends and family are cheering him on, as he trains for Team Senegal’s unified basketball team at his first Special Olympics World Games in Berlin!