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Community Impact

Promoting Friendship and Understanding: The Story of Loau, a Peer Partner

A boy falls over a football on an outdoor field while 5 boys run towards him, 2 from his team and 3 from the other team. Everyone wears Special Olympics jerseys. There are palm trees lining the field.
A Unified football match in Port Said Governorate.

On the banks of the Suez Canal, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is the Port Said Governorate of Egypt. For over two decades, Port Said has taken pride in being an active hub of inclusion—hosting Special Olympics local games, sending decorated athletes to World Games, and participating in the first Pan-African Games in Cairo. But that remarkable commitment to inclusion never found a path to the schoolhouse until 2019, when Play Unified: Learn Unified launched in Egypt.

A girl is mid-basketball shot as 8 other girls look on at an outdoor basketball court. They all wear Special Olympics jerseys.
A Unified basketball match in Port Said Governorate.

In Port Said, students with intellectual disabilities attend educational centers, while students without disabilities attend mainstream schools. Because of this separation, there has been limited opportunity for students to participate in sporting events alongside each other. When Play Unified: Learn Unified was introduced in the Governorate, students in educational centers and students in mainstream schools were brought together to share in the joys of teamwork, sport and social connection.

In the following statement, Loau, a Port Said mainstream student, describes how his involvement with Special Olympics changed his understanding of people with intellectual differences.

A headshot of a young adult male, giving a slight smile.
Loau, Port Said Youth Leader and Unified partner.

“I am Loau, a 16-year-old mainstream student from Port Said. During the past two years I have been involved with Special Olympics through Play Unified: Learn Unified. I was also a Youth Leader who helped my school host a large tournament for Unified Schools across the Canal Region of Egypt. During that tournament we played alongside students with disabilities. It was a very valuable time for me and my peers, and we were very happy that we participated in such a great and impactful event.

“The best participation I had was during the virtual African Youth Summit in January 2021, and one of my best experiences was when I participated with my partner, athlete Abd. I gained many experiences from him and learned how to become friends with students with disabilities. It helped me transfer these experiences to my peers in the school and the club to encourage them to participate in our community more, especially with the activities of Special Olympics Egypt.”

Thanks to students such as Loau, Port Said is taking the next step in inclusion, bringing revolutionary change to a community ready to continue uplifting people with disabilities.

A team of five boys stands and kneels together on an outdoor football field, all wearing Special Olympics shirts. A few have their arms around each other, and an adult male coach stands next to them holding a football.
Unified football teammates gather during a competition.

Unified Schools

Special Olympics Egypt created 111 new Unified Schools during the first three years of Play Unified: Learn Unified, expanding into new governorates like Port Said. With the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Play Unified: Learn Unified has engaged over 1,490 athletes with intellectual disabilities and Unified partners in Egypt since 2018.

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