The following post was written by Hiba, a Special Olympics Youth Leader from Pakistan. She makes it her mission to strengthen inclusion in her community. Check out how she #innovateforinclusion!
In a third world country with a low literacy rate like Pakistan, it is a great irony that individuals with intellectual disabilities are regarded as a stigma in the society. Hence, they confine themselves within their homes and ultimately lose the confidence to face the world. A lot of efforts are going on and required to cope with the stigma.
Parents of individuals with intellectual disabilities play a vital role in the upbringing of their children and exert all their efforts in developing a better society and a better life for them. Siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities also play a tactful and very important role in their lives. They support each other in difficult times, share moments of happiness, advocate for them through every thick and thin, and just be there when you need them.
There’s a story behind every face. My name is Hiba Qamar and I am a proud sister of Usman Qamar. My story begins when my younger brother came into our lives and the blessings shined upon our family. When we came to know that Usman was suffering from microcephaly, we were shocked to hear this. However, we recovered immediately and accepted Usman with an open heart. We never felt ashamed having a child with intellectual disabilities in our home, in fact we got a purpose of life. Since the beginning, our parents trained me how to take care of Usman and, being the elder one, the responsibilities I am carrying for Usman.
Initially Usman was very shy and could not convey his words properly. He was unable to learn things, he was highly dependent on others, and he had a very short-tempered personality. After Usman’s enrollment in Special Olympics Pakistan, they observed some noteworthy changes in the life of Usman and his family.
Different sessions organized by Special Olympics Pakistan regarding counselling of siblings changed my perspective and I started helping Usman in day to day activities with an out of the box approach. I stood with Usman in every field of life, helping him achieve his goals and tasks.
I introduced the concept of creativity to Usman like transforming dining table into a Table Tennis table so we could play together. In this way, Usman started recycling and transforming other things.
The more time I spent with Usman the more it influenced my personality and made me more humble and kind. I understood the power of ignoring someone’s disabilities and focusing more on their abilities and their strengths.
Our affiliation with Special Olympics made me realize that no one is disabled; it’s just our perspective of how we see the world. Now it feels like I don’t have just one brother - all the athletes of Special Olympics are my siblings, regardless of their color, creed, gender, religion, or where they are from - we all are one.
Special Olympics provided a platform for my brother to prove his abilities while also giving me an opportunity to become his voice, standing by his side in every aspect of his life and showing him how much he truly matters to me. The Sibling Engagement Program guided me on how to become Usman’s advocate, mentor, protector, and most importantly, this program acts like a strong bridge between our relationship, empowering us to stand for each other whenever we need it to strengthen our bond.
Other siblings participating in this program shared similar feelings and same experiences as mine, leading the program to a develop a closer relationship with our siblings with intellectual disabilities. This also encouraged all of us to participate with them in every activity so that now all of us can work together to create an inclusive society for them. This program is encouraging us to break the barrier of isolation and rejection not just for people with intellectual disabilities, but for all types of people with intellectual disabilities.
In the end, I would like to say that I am extremely excited for what else this program has to offer, and I am looking forward to learning more about sibling relationships and experiences across the world. I believe that the lessons I will learn along the way will enable me to be more involved with such people and I hope that the work I do as a sibling under this program will impact every sibling’s story.
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.