Special Olympics Europe Eurasia is excited to announce that Special Olympics Italia Unified Partner, Gerald Mballe will join the regional team as the movement’s first-ever Advisor on the Special Olympics Unified with Refugees programme. This strategic advisory position will help further inform, strengthen, and expand the reach and impact of Special Olympics programming in support of refugee and migrant youth worldwide.
Introduced to the world of Special Olympics in 2015 in Turin, Italy as a legally resettled refugee, Gerald immediately began to train with the athletes of Special Olympics Turin. His trajectory since has been an inspiration fuelled by hard work and a passion for equality, tolerance and inclusion. His commitment to inclusive sports, and social inclusion worldwide was captured by ESPN as part of the movement’s 50th Anniversary Game Changer series. His powerful intervention at the 2018 Special Olympics Refugee Forum in Amsterdam moved the renowned journalist David Eades, global reporter for the BBC, to recommend Gerald to become a Young Leader for Sport at the Service of Humanity, a platform created by Pope Francis that uses sport to drive our shared humanity across the world.
Gerald understood the need to ensure that the athletes of Special Olympics and migrant youth alike were prioritized by the international development sector, which motivated him to speak directly to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in early 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland. This occasion led to the development of an important new global partnership—a significant milestone for the Special Olympics movement.
Gerald was on the front lines of the current COVID-19 pandemic as an official of the Italian Red Cross. As hundreds of millions of European citizens were confined to their homes, Gerald was on board a frigate off the coast of Sicily, providing psychosocial support, counseling and translation services for refugees and migrants recently rescued in the Mediterranean. At a time when fear gripped the world, Gerald answered the call of duty for humanity.
As part of this new advisory role, Gerald will serve as one of the movement’s top assets in generating increased visibility and support for the Special Olympics Unified with Refugees programming. Currently active in some 11 nations, Gerald will lead the effort in engaging with media, partners, national and regional governments, and the international development sector to ensure that refugee and migrant youth of all abilities can share in the benefits of Unified programming. In addition, Gerald will support the movement’s continued commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as well as the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia youth engagement strategies. His role will also see him serve as spokesperson for the emerging global partnership with UNHCR.
“This whole year has been both challenging and remarkable. But now, I seem to be in such a good place at the right time,” said Gerald. “Joining the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia team as the first-ever Advisor for the Unified with Refugees programme is the most exciting thing happening in my life right now. Having a role as a Unified partner on the pitch—and advisor off the pitch—for me is the best way to give back in return for the overwhelming welcome the athletes of Special Olympics gave me some years ago when they invited me into their family during moments of great personal desperation. I can’t wait to get started!”
Gerald’s appointment marks another exciting step on our journey towards creating a fully Unified world!