Take the first step
My greatest hope is that we will one day become a truly inclusive and accepting society.
Over the last decade, I have been dedicating my time to working with children with intellectual disabilities in Fiji.
I look after them, teach them, and assist the sports coaches in some of the programmes run for these children.
My interest in working with children with intellectual disabilities started years ago after I realized that most people do not know how to interact with these children. They don’t know how to communicate with children who are less verbal or how to calm them when they get agitated.
Witnessing some of these incidents motivated me to learn more about the different forms of intellectual disabilities. I started scouring the internet for information. I wanted to learn the differences between the various intellectual disabilities, the symptoms, the behaviour and the type of care that they require.
I had to be informed if I wanted to help these children.
Often, children with intellectual disabilities are treated differently from the others and I want to be able to give them the special attention that they need. I want to help, teach and most importantly, care for them. To me, this is a fulfilling job.
And so, beyond teaching in a special needs school, I started getting involved with Special Olympics back in 2014. One of the first projects I worked on was preparations for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. I trained together with the athletes of Special Olympics Fiji in preparation for the event. More recently, I have been tasked with coaching the younger athletes, and being involved in outreach programmes involving children and trainers. On top of this, I help in any other way I can.
Recently, I took part in a football coaching programme organised by Special Olympics Asia Pacific and the Asian Football Confederation, so that I can be accredited, and equipped with the right skills to improve the level of sports training for the children I work with. These children deserve professional sports training just like any other athlete. If I want to make a real difference, I have to improve my own skills.
At Special Olympics, we advocate inclusion and want to integrate people with intellectual disabilities into society. We should encourage these children to be part of the community by getting them to pick up different activities that are suitable for them.
If you are keen to help, I encourage you to start by learning more about the different forms of intellectual disabilities. This will help you take the first step in providing support to children and individuals with special needs. And this translates to a big step for us in becoming a more inclusive, understanding and compassionate society, not just in Fiji but, around the world.