The following post was written by Tamarah, Special Olympics youth leader from Papua New Guinea. Tamarah makes it her mission to strengthen inclusion in her community. Check out how she #innovateforinclusion!
Hello, my name is Tamarah and I am 15-years-old. I am from Papua New Guinea and am currently in the ninth grade. Since I was about seven or eight-years-old, I always attended
programs and meetings that were hosted by Special Olympics here in my country. My dad was and still is the president of Special Olympics Papua New Guinea and my mom was a head coach and manager. Nearly my entire family has been involved with Special Olympics Papua New Guinea.
For as long as I’ve known, I have always been fascinated by Special Olympics and the opportunities showcased by the athletes themselves. As I grew up watching the program, I always found getting to know the unique people involved amazing. They soon became a family to me.
I was also inspired by both of my parents because they always worked hard to make sure they managed the organization well and that every program was a success. This had an impact on how I looked at people with disabilities. As I grew up, I noticed that Special Olympics PNG had a huge impact on the athletes’ lives. They became more confident and social people. Before, they would act shy around new people. Ever since their involvement with Special Olympics PNG, they became more open around others. It was fascinating to think that just a simple motivation from loved ones could change the way you think about yourself. I believe that’s how they grew to be more confident around others.
The reason I decided to join Special Olympics PNG was because I wanted to spread awareness for individuals with intellectual disabilities. I wanted to help by changing the negative mindsets of people who think poorly of those with intellectual disabilities — especially the mindsets of youth who are the future generation. By getting involved, I also wanted to recruit more young people like myself to participate in programs and spread awareness about the movement of Special Olympics.
Around June of 2018, I was chosen to represent the Asia Pacific region and Papua New Guinea as a youth leader in Azerbaijan. I teamed up with my companion Ravu to make the journey to Azerbaijan a reality. We were lucky and blessed to have been chosen to go and represent our country. Not long after we were off to the beautiful Azerbaijan.
The trip to Azerbaijan gave me inspiration for ways to improve my program at home. When we returned, Ravu and I prepared all the arrangements for the program. By late December of 2018, we were both able to lead the program. We were able to get a local school involved and play Unified Sports such as bocce and soccer. From there, we recruited 50 new youth leaders. There were some challenges with this activity. Our venue location changed, and we did not have as many participants as we had planned. In spite of these challenges, we still proceeded and it turned out to be a success.
I am glad that I became involved with Special Olympics. I am ready to be involved with the movement and advocate for those with disabilities to create a more inclusive world. We are all humans and every single person is special and smart in their own way.
The 2018 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, theOffice of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects atSpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.