Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, athletes across the Europe Eurasia region have been looking for ways to keep active and stay connected to their communities. Many motivational videos have appeared on the social media channels of Special Olympics programmes across the region. From work-out tutorials and health tips to encouraging messages, the whole movement is creating content to support each other through isolation and lockdown.
Special Olympics Albania is one programme leading the charge on this front. On 28 April, they launched the campaign Qëndrojmë të shëndetshëm në shtëpi (Stay Healthy at Home), a video series produced with the support of the municipality of Tirana. With the release of three work-out, fitness and health videos per week over five weeks, the aim is for Special Olympics Albania and the city of Tirana to provide a beacon of light for the community during these challenging times. The project takes a unique approach to the audience. The work-out videos provide training sessions accessible for people of every age and every ability who wish to strengthen their bodies, with increasingly intense exercises that can be easily performed at home. In addition, the project aims to help the viewers in maintaining a balanced diet, with nutrition advice adjusted to the new quarantine habits.
Special Olympics Albania Director for Sport, Sara Bala and Director of Special Olympics Albania, Roland Hysi kicked off the first video. “We are all going through very difficult times, and we will face them together”, says Roland at the beginning of the video, “Health must not be overlooked. Three times a week, we will have training sessions that everyone is welcome to join, and we will also provide advice on how to eat healthier and stay hydrated.”
The engagement of the city has been vital for this project, from its production to its promotion. The episodes of the series are released every week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, on the social media accounts of Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Tirana, at 6pm local time. With its unique and dynamic content and more than 50,000 views, the first video has already attracted the interest of many; in fact the national television channel, Radio Televizioni Shqiptar, has agreed to broadcast the videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning for the coming weeks! A huge accomplishment for the team and the district, but even more so for the athletes, who are elated to appear on national television! “I encourage all children to train with these exercises since they are designed to be performed at home,” says Gersi, star of the series and a swimmer with Special Olympics Albania.
This video series is just one element of a rigorous plan by Special Olympics Albania to keep their athletes engaged through the COVID-19 crisis. After the first case was registered in the country on 9 March 2020, Special Olympics Albania proactively cancelled every training and event scheduled for the following months. Ever since, they have been working tirelessly on their online presence to reassure the athletes and ensure the safety of everyone in the movement. As we all look towards brighter, happier times, the team in Special Olympics Albania rejoice in the newly established relationship with the municipality of Tirana and they are very hopeful for what is to come!