The following post was written by Simona and Gintare, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from Lithuania. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
Our experience at the Global Youth Leadership Forum in Baku was amazing and we are glad we could implement our knowledge into this project and share it with other people. Our goal for this project was to create a youth activation committee in order to have more youth leadership and offer more Special Olympics opportunities in our community. To make our group inclusive, we trained 16 Youth Leaders — 8 with intellectual disabilities and 8 without intellectual disabilities. These Youth Leaders were able to implement activities they came up with at a workshop with the European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation (ENGSO). There they had the opportunity to work with other youth from Lithuania, Lativa, Greece, Romania, and Slovenia as they presented their activation with Special Olympics using three models: recreational, developmental, and competitive. Back home, these Youth Leaders were also able to engage youth in Kaunas, Prienai, Vilnius, Kazlų Rūda, Utena, Šeduva, and Baptai by holding at least 3 events every 6 months.
Because of all the activities we planned with the Special Olympics Youth Leaders we understood much more about Special Olympics’ mission and its positive impact on society. We are very happy that we have the opportunity to be a part of Special Olympics because we have the opportunity to communicate and participate with athletes and Youth leaders under the same conditions without any differences. We were very happy to see how this project connected all of us and put a lot of smiles on our faces. For example, one of the Youth Leaders said:
“I am very happy to have this opportunity to be a Special Olympics Lithuania Youth Leader. During this time I have learned so many things that I enjoyed very much. The biggest impression for me was that for first time in my life I had an opportunity to be a part of international project and can now go to a camp to train new Youth Leaders by sharing my experience with them. This project gave me new opportunities in my life and I am very thankful for that.”
Overall, we think that this project was very successful and we are very happy with it. During the project all the participants seemed to enjoy it a lot. All the activities were very engaging and people showed great support for each other. We laughed a lot together and worked towards one goal — to build a team of Youth Leaders. We believe that this project gave us so much experience and we look forward to supporting Special Olympics in future events.
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.