Schools across Abu Dhabi are showing their support for the 2018 Special Olympics IX MENA Games by getting involved in a number of activities to raise awareness. Local and international schools have ‘adopted’ a participating nation and are cheering them on through school-based competitions and events.
Matt Deegan, Head of PE at Brighton College Abu Dhabi explains: “We jumped at the chance to be involved with the Special Olympics and are pleased to be supporting Sri Lanka.
“We’re integrating the Special Olympics into all aspects of learning at the school – from personal, social and health education through to poster design competitions and participating in mixed team football matches,” he said.
The principles of diversity and inclusion resonate well with teachers and students alike.
“Sport is inclusive and a great leveller. I’m amazed at how understanding the kids have been. The students are not only learning about sport, they’re developing respect for other people,” added Deegan.
For Year 8 Brighton College Student, Brodie Chappell, the message is clear. “It’s good to include everyone in sport. It’s not just about who’s the best, everyone deserves the chance to play.”
In the lead up to the MENA Games, the Special Olympics Local Organising Committee held a number of school football matches and its first Play Unified Tournament. The tournament involved 12 schools and ‘unified’ teams featuring a mix of children from special centres and schools.
Special Olympics Community Engagement Manager and organiser of the event, Seth Amoafo, explains, “This was a friendly tournament to celebrate inclusion. There was no ‘knockout’ or player of the tournament. It was about people of determination getting the chance to participate and being part of a unified team with other kids their age.”
It’s a concept that’s changing lives for people of determination here in Abu Dhabi. Robin Leatherman from the New England Centre for Children, has a student, Yousef, who has been part of the football matches and tournament.
“This tournament and the games before it have been fantastic. Yousef is really shy but he loves football and anything athletic. This is great for him socially as it helps bring out his personality. It’s especially important for kids with autism to have the chance to make friends so this is a great opportunity for him,” she said.