The following post was written by Catalina and Francisco, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from Argentina. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
My name is Catalina Mildenberger and my partner is Francisco Kalhawy, together we assumed the responsibility of developing actions in favor of the inclusion of young people with and without disabilities. The experience of being able to be part of this Project is unforgettable. We are very grateful for the opportunity and trust, it helped us a lot to open our minds, and it encouraged us to continue looking for change, to continue fighting for a real inclusive society. The truth is that until a couple of years ago I was completely ignorant of the Unified Generation and of Unified Sports. Today I can say that the Unified Generation is youth being revolutionary and working together for inclusion. The Unified Generation that today is made up of young people is the reflection of tomorrow's society and that is what excites us, to see how much we have progressed as a society, but always being aware that there is something more to improve. Although at times we have been a little frustrated by the bureaucratic inconveniences that we had to face to develop the activities in the schools, that also made us think about how much there is to be done in favor of inclusion, and in the contradiction in that, precisely in the spaces that are supposed to be inclusive, in reality, they not always are. That gives us the guideline that in reality the change we need is something much deeper than simply obeying a law that obliges to include students with disabilities in schools, but the real change is to decide that inclusion is a reality, a deep adjustment, a learning for all the involved. That change needs a real awareness that diversity exists, and that we must build a fairer society that harbors that diversity. We are convinced that, at this point, through Special Olympics we can make a difference that sport is inclusive tool for excellence, and that is the path we want to follow. We know that through Unified Sports we can change the perception that young people have about disability and achieve that true inclusion we seek. That will be our mission!
This phrase I think sums up that spirit, the true transformation to which we must aspire: "To include is not to make a place, it is to welcome".
This is the work that we must assume from now on. Both Francisco and I commit ourselves to do our best, to work for the objective and to add more young people to this Unified Generation. To all the young people who want to be part of this generation, I say “strength”, because many times we will meet people closed to change that frustrate us, because they are going to call us idealists, utopians, but only we know the power that we have inside and we don't have to let anything or anyone take it away from us, let's keep dreaming and working as a team, as we do in sports. May the Unified Sport be a reflection of life!
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.