Over the past year and a half, the pandemic has resulted in school closures around the world, forcing 1.2 billion children and youth out of school. One of the hardest hit countries has been Indonesia, where schools still remain closed and millions of students continue to be sidelined by the ongoing effects of the public health crisis.
Frustrated by the lack of opportunities to connect, four Youth Leaders from different parts of Special Olympics Indonesia formed a team online and devised a plan. Together they would launch the Creative Digital Campaign: a series of five webinars aimed at positioning Indonesian youth as leaders in the inclusion movement, plus raising awareness of people with disabilities through social media. At the start of 2021, with schools still closed and limited Play Unified: Learn Unified activities planned due to government lockdowns, these Youth Leaders launched the first webinar focused on social media content planning. The event was a major success with over 200 young people from Indonesia attending. Building on their success, the Youth Leaders continued to host webinars on a monthly basis with increased viewership each time.
To mark the end of the Creative Digital Campaign, the scores of youth participants were presented with a challenge: using the skills learned from the webinars, they were to create a social media campaign highlighting the talents and gifts of people with intellectual disabilities. Teams, consisting of young people with and without disabilities, were convened to tackle the challenge together and were encouraged to put their leadership skills to the test and develop strong bonds.
Two young women who participated in the Creative Digital Campaign, Stephanie and Stany, shared their reflections on the impact of the Campaign and the challenge that followed. Stephanie, a young woman with Down Syndrome stated, “I learned how to be a social media promoter and use my voice to advocate for myself and others.” Stany, a young woman without intellectual disability, said, “The webinars gave me new skills on how to use video and different storytelling methods to share the incredible impact Special Olympics athletes have had on my life.”
Both Stephanie and Stany are grateful for the experience of connecting digitally in a socially distant country. The Youth Leaders who developed the Creative Digital Campaign are proud of the impact they were able to have and look forward to the day when these digital connections can become in-person connections.