Updated: May 5, 2020
The following post was written by Claudia and Jose, two Special Olympics youth leaders from El Salvador. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
In order to eradicate stereotypes against people with intellectual disabilities, we wanted to teach the community that we all have different skills for our project. From the first moment they told me that I would be part of a group of youth leaders they said I should think about what we could do to lead the inclusion revolution. The first thing I personally thought was: “It must be a project where they go out into the world, we can’t be the only ones who know them.”
Then we met with our athlete who we would work with. Our first challenge was to focus on what the product would be and how we would work with the athletes. For a moment our idea was that each of the colleagues with intellectual disabilities would present a different product or a different craft that everyone could do but then we decided it was better to just do one. This experience was incredible because we talked about our ideas together and we all learned a lot.
Now the challenge was to be able to specify what the design would be and what material we would obtain for our art fair. We proposed several and decided to use indigo, a very special product in our society. Working with indigo involves many processes and a lot of time, that’s why we wanted to use it. Then we met with our partners and told them a little about the process. We worked with families that lived with us because it was very difficult for us to find unified youth. Each time we tried something slightly different, always trying to reach the community and connect with more families because they are the fundamental pillar of inclusion. With each of the athletes and their unified partner, we showed our community their skills, expanding the Special Olympics leadership program and Unified Schools activities.
At one point we thought that we could not cover all the proposed metrics, but in fact I think we even surpassed them because of the physical exhibition space that we managed to get for the fair. It was a successful project with lots of learning and coexistence with people of all types — with disabilities, without disabilities, families, adults, and other young people. We are all aware of the issue every day because in our country there is still a lot to be done for the acceptance and involvement of people with disabilities. However, we are working to eliminate stereotypes, knocking them down with different campaigns and ideas from families.
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.