Updated: Jul 30
The following post was written by Juntong and Xiang, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from China. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
I still remember the summer vacation in 2018. My partner Li Xiang and I went to Azerbaijan to participate in the 50th "Global Youth Leadership Forum" organized by Special Olympics and brought the "Me To We Music"(MWM) Unified project.
At the beginning of the forum, I struggled for a long time about what kind of project should I do. So I did a lot of research until I decided to work with many sports. I want to give them the opportunity to let them try some different things beyond sports too, so I decided to do something different. Since I worked with a child who has an intellectual disability for a long time and taught them to play Guzheng, I know that they have the ability to learn and enjoy music. And according to scientific research, it shows that music can have good effects on brain development, so I chose to do a music project to give them the opportunity to have contact with music. Also, because most people with intellectual disability haven’t been widely accepted in China, many people don’t even know they exist because most of these families are afraid of other people will hurt their kids so they hide them at home. I want to let the society accept them and involve them, and music is always the best way to bring everyone together. This is also the reason why I named the project “Me To We”.
For the project, I organized 3 main activities and several small ones. The biggest challenge I had faced along the way which changed my original plan is that I planned to bring some youth with and without intellectual disabilities to other country like Canada, to experience a normal school day at a Unified school, but unfortunately, there was some legal issues that I didn’t think about so I went with the backup plan. This challenge didn’t affect my project a lot, but this experience taught me that next time when I need to make a plan, I need to do more research and also need to have an idea of what I can do if things don’t go the way I originally planned.
My favorite activity was the performance in the cafe--- which was run by a group of youth with intellectual disabilities. It was so memorable that I will never forget. It was a stormy night, and I was so worried that there would be only a few people in the audience because of the weather. We prepared for that performance for a long time. We taught them the performance sentence by sentence, assigned partners and sentences, recorded in the studio, and rehearsed repeatedly in the venue, just to complete a wonderful performance. Unexpectedly, that night was extremely lively, and many people traveled thousands of miles just to watch our program. This makes me feel that all our efforts are worthwhile and feel very happy and moved.
I had asked my friend LiXiang about what he thought about this project, and this is what he said to me: “I love to be involved in this kind of activity very much and hope to have the opportunity to participate again because I have learned a lot of new knowledge my partner. I am very happy. My ideal is to be an extraordinary ordinary person. My most memorable moment is to hold the flag and sing the song with my friends -I and my motherland《我与我的祖国》”
I definitely will still continue to organize more and more of these kind of activities, and I will continue to let more people know that these people with intellectual disabilities are no different than us - we are all special in our own way!
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.