At Special Olympics, we’re not just about sports. We are agents of change, stepping up for a more inclusive world—one in which everyone has the opportunity to lead meaningful and well-rounded lives.
Our athlete leaders from Asia Pacific exemplify inclusion, actively championing it within their lives and communities. Their impactful initiatives significantly inform our overarching strategy, aligning with our long-term plans to contribute towards several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
Prioritising health and wellbeing
Meet Ruby Lawler, an athlete leader from Special Olympics Australia. Ruby is an advocate for SDG #3: health and wellbeing.
“I started swimming at a young age because it would be good for my joints, and it would make me stronger. For me to be independent, I have to keep moving. Because if I stop, I end up in a wheelchair. And that’s not where I want to be,” she says.
Special Olympics promotes physical and mental health for people with ID through sports, fitness, and healthcare programs. This can help with reduced mortality rates and improve access to essential healthcare services.
“I think it’s important to have dreams and goals, to keep pushing myself towards things because I still love to swim. And I keep training and challenging myself by joining competitions,” Ruby continued.
She believes that “Anyone can be an advocate. It’s actually quite easy. It’s about encouraging other people to do their best. Not just other people, yourself as well.”
During her earlier years, Pauline Paul from Special Olympics Papua New Guinea left school due to bullying but she’s since grown from those experiences to become a staunch champion of SDG #4: quality education for all. Today, as an athlete leader, she actively visits schools to advocate against bullying.
“I first joined Special Olympics as an athlete, but now I am also a youth leader, and I go to different schools to share my story,” says Pauline Paul from Special Olympics Papua New Guinea. “People need to know we all learn differently, and people need a choice to learn at their own pace. That’s why I’ll keep sharing my stories,” she continued.
We step up and do more to foster inclusive environments through education, leadership, and inclusive school programs, targeting early childhood development and work towards reducing educational disparities among vulnerable groups.
“I work in human resources. The best part of my job is that I’m able to influence the future of others like me,” says Dacki.
Carmelo Sandiego or Dacki from Special Olympics Philippines advocates for SDG #8: access to decent work and economic growth.
“I found a place that made me feel part of something bigger. It was being an athlete with Special Olympics where I decided to use my voice to close the gap between people with intellectual disabilities and those without,” says Dacki. “To all the naysayers out there, you’re missing out by overlooking us. We are more than capable.”
Equality in Action
“Words were always stored in my mind, but no one encouraged me to speak up. Everyone talked about me, but not to me,” says Muhammad Haseeb Abbasi, an athlete leader, from Special Olympics Pakistan.
As a motivational speaker, Haseeb’s words crosses geographic, social and cultural boundaries, urging for active participation and understanding to build a more inclusive society. Haseeb actively advocates for SDG #10: reduced inequalities, a critical step in progressing inclusion.
“Give us the confidence not to just survive, but to thrive in life. If you meet any person with intellectual disabilities, help us become part of your world so we can speak up and realise our dreams,” said Haseeb.
Achieving the UNSDGs demands holistic solutions, requiring input and resources from all sectors of society, regardless of abilities. Everyone can play their part. Our athlete leaders, moulded by extensive training and opportunities, are enthusiastic about making significant societal contributions and extend an invitation for you to join them in their efforts.
Visit the Youth For Inclusion website to discover resources on how you can champion these causes and support our mission for a more inclusive world. Together, let’s redefine what’s possible!