The following post was written by Arturo and Isabella, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from Venezuela. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
Our goal from the beginning was to give young people the experience of being capable leaders as they lead a project that would allow them to impact the athletes of Special Olympics Venezuela. To accomplish this goal, we held a series of workshops over 6 Saturdays. During these workshops, we sought to polish skills in each participant, helping them grow as a person by sensitizing them to people with intellectual disabilities. We also highlighted the skills of the athletes of Special Olympics such as passion, teamwork, and communication. This gave participants the tools they needed so that little by little they could learn how to put them into practice as they carried out their projects.
Creating “Connecting Capabilities” was a challenge from the beginning because we needed to decide what skills we wanted to develop in each participant and figure out how to unite them with values that represent Special Olympics. Not only would they develop these skills throughout the course, but these skills would leave a mark on the rest of their lives. We also wanted our workshops to be fun and welcoming, eliminating any kind of stereotypes against people with intellectual disabilities.
We found a way to achieve our goals by raising awareness with a new project called “A Project that Creates Projects”. We always had the support of the organization and the athletes as they offered different ideas that helped us complete the curriculum that we would teach. The applications we received to participate in the workshops exceeded our expectations. Once we selected our participants, the young people (ages 17–21) were willing to listen and learn everything we had prepared for them. They immediately connected with the philosophy of Special Olympics and made it a part of themselves. They were very committed to the athletes and their projects during the program. Our plan was to have a first, second, and third place for the projects but it was difficult to discern among the 5 applications because they were all very good. Each participant created a very strong bond with the athletes they invited and they were willing to carry out their projects and participate in future activities. “Connecting Capabilities” united us much more as a committee because every volunteer was committed not only with Special Olympics Venezuela, but also to each young person who participated. It was an experience that helped us to grow as a team as we worked side by side with the athletes because they helped us remember why we put so much effort into everything we do.
In the future, we would love to enhance our curriculum and accept more people in the project. With more support we would be able to sensitize more people and have a bigger group of youth committed to the growth and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.
The 2018–2019 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Kantar Group, the Microsoft Corporation, Lane Global Youth Leadership, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects at SpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.