The following post was written by Syed and Sameer, two Special Olympics youth leaders from Pakistan. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
The lavish green mountains stood in front of a city known for its power. A group of young enthusiastic people with hopes higher than mountains and determination stronger than the roots of Margalla hills stood near.
The city was Islamabad, the people were volunteers of SOP (Special Olympics Pakistan), and their goal was to raise awareness for people with intellectual disabilities. They had planned to raise this awareness by inviting people from all walks of life for a hiking trip on a track made in Margalla Hills.
I, Sameer, a person with an intellectual disability, had arranged this hike with Roshan, my mentor and unified partner. We set up posters, banners, and tables in the parking to facilitate the invitees. All the adult participants in the hike were provided with mufflers and the children with t-shirts with SOP logos printed on them. Before we began our hike, we engaged in light exercise to warm up.
Since the goal of the hike was to raise awareness about intellectual disabilities and promote the idea of a unified world, individuals with and without intellectual disabilities were grouped together. Many schools who cater to the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities also participated in the hike. Together, the group took the trail.
Since there were many participants, we divided them into groups to make guiding the hikers easier. We led the groups and adjusted the pace to cater to those who struggled a bit more.
Walking under the grey-ish clouds and through the trees, we realized that simple acts of kindness (like the way the trees unite to make beautiful patterns and the way the clouds combine to form unique colors of black and white) can make people true to their roots and minds. The harmony of the sky and nature gave us visions and hopes of a more peaceful society.
After traveling about 2 kilometers, we returned to our starting point. From there, we provided the hike participants with refreshments.
We left our time in the fresh air with clearer minds. Our hope is that people will rethink the status of people with intellectual disabilities in society and bring a positive and impactful change in their behavior and attitude towards all.
The 2018 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, theOffice of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects atSpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.