For the first time athletes, siblings, and youth leaders held a joined Regional Youth Leadership Summit and Athlete Congress in Johannesburg—the first summit held in the Africa Region since 2019. The three-day event saw over 80 participants, representing 12 Programs from around the continent come together under the theme “Influencing the Unified Footprints of Tomorrow.”
The Summit kicked off with an Opening Ceremony hosted by Special Olympics Youth Leaders Effie Otieno from Special Olympics Kenya and Brightfield Shadi from Special Olympics Botswana. Honorable guests and notable speakers challenged our athletes and Youth Leaders to take advantage of this Summit and Congress by challenging themselves, opening their minds to learning opportunities, and building meaningful connections during the event. Delegates were delighted by the marimba musical entertainment from the students of Randburg Clinic School, and ended the day with a cultural welcome dinner and talent show, an event filled with tradition, connection, and celebration.
“I #LeadToInclude so that people can accept who we are, no matter what is going on within us, we could work as a family, as one team, together, step by step who will be included in the community,” said Barbara Njovo, Regional Athlete Leader and Youth Leader from Special Olympics Zimbabwe.
On the second day of the summit, youth engaged in a Special Olympics Youth Leadership and Unified Leadership training where they learn more about different leadership traits and styles. This was then applied to an activity where delegations had to rely on the strengths of each team member to achieve a common goal. Delegations learned how project management can be applied to the implementation of Youth Innovation Projects and local Program activities. Then youth went through a workshop to apply their knowledge of project management to develop their own project designs.
Finally, the summit wrapped up on Day 3 with Youth Leaders, and students with and without intellectual disabilities gathering on the field for a match of Unified Football at a local Unified School part of Special Olympics South Africa.
“The leadership training and skills helps you to be able to learn and embrace, know how to use those tools to be able to spread our message as a Program and as Special Olympics in general,” said Musonda Chilatu, mentor and Youth Leader from Special Olympics Zambia.
As the Summit and Congress closed during the final dinner, Charles Nyambe, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Africa Region, shared with all the delegates that now is when the hard work starts. Charles challenged all participants to take what they have learned here over the past three days and activate in their home countries around the region. Also attending was Ancilla Smith, CEO of Special Olympics South Africa, whose support for this event has been instrumental in its overwhelming success. This #LeadToInclude Youth Summit was made possible by Lane Global Youth and supported by Kantar, Samuel Family Foundation, Harmony SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and Inspire Teaching & Learning, and Project Management Institute Educational Foundation, and the Athlete Congress was made possible by Bank of America.