Special Olympics Bharat youth summit: A ray of hope for differently abled athletes in India

Special Olympics Bharat is a National Sports Federation accredited by Special Olympics Inc. to conduct sports and development programs all over India.

The SO Bharat held a three-day Leadership Summit at the YMCA here to encourage youth with and without Intellectual Disabilities to engage as frequently as possible at all levels.

The SO Bharat held a three-day Leadership Summit at the YMCA here to encourage youth with and without Intellectual Disabilities to engage as frequently as possible at all levels. | Photo Credit:

Special Olympics Bharat is a National Sports Federation accredited by Special Olympics Inc. to conduct sports and development programs all over India.

Deepak was part of the Indian squad in 2015 for the Special Olympics Summer Games at Los Angeles. He not only won a medal but also gave a new lease of life to is ailing father.

“His medal fetched him prize money from the Government of India which he used for the kidney transplant of his father,” said Raman Rekhi, joint director with Special Olympics Bharat (SO Bharat).

The SO Bharat held a three-day Leadership Summit at the YMCA here to encourage youth with and without Intellectual Disabilities to engage as frequently as possible at all levels.

The summit  provided a platform for the youth from all over India to highlight and share their experiences of the work being done through the Special Olympics Unified Champion School programming.

The summit provided a platform for the youth from all over India to highlight and share their experiences of the work being done through the Special Olympics Unified Champion School programming. | Photo Credit: Special Arramgement

Aarushi Sharma (An athlete/youth with an Intellectual Disability) and Karmenpreet Kaur(A youth without an Intellectual Disability), as moderators, steered the session to the delight of the gathering. Aarushi was part of the silver-medal winning basketball team at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Special Olympics Bharat is a National Sports Federation accredited by Special Olympics Inc. to conduct sports and development programs all over India.

According to Rekhi, “Special Olympics Bharat kick-started the Annual Youth leadership Summit bringing together close to 80 persons on unified sports and panel discussions.

The Summit drew attention to the vision of inclusion and transformation in attitudes and behaviour through the youth, making schools and communities places of unity and acceptance.

Panel Discussions had representatives from UNICEF, WWF and various educational institutions and media houses who shared their experiences, challenges and opinions around making educational institutions spaces to nurture Inclusion by combining youth with and without Intellectual Disabilities at varied levels.”

In the opinion of Ambreen Khan, senior manager with WWF, “It’s important that we begin conversations and sensitize stakeholders and community at large that youth with disabilities are no different.

They have as much to contribute like any other young person of their age. Providing opportunities and including their ideas will support in reducing the associated stigma and bias.

The Summit drew attention to the vision of inclusion and transformation in attitudes and behaviour through the youth, making schools and communities places of unity and acceptance.

The Summit drew attention to the vision of inclusion and transformation in attitudes and behaviour through the youth, making schools and communities places of unity and acceptance. | Photo Credit: Special Arranegment

WWF India keeps young people at the center of all our programmes. WWF India’s Environment Education is one of the oldest divisions engaging youth actively in ideation, planning and creating impact since 1969.”

The SO Bharat Chairperson, Dr Mallika Nadda, noted, “The youth are an integral part of the society and have the ability to drive a change. The Summit brought together guests from diverse backgrounds outlining each one’s ability and relevance to drive the Inclusion Revolution.

It provided a platform for the youth from all over India to highlight and share their experiences of the work being done through the Special Olympics Unified Champion School programming.”

Rekhi highlighted the case of Raj Kumar from Delhi. “He came from the bylanes of Sadar Bazar where he was earning his livelihood as a roadside vendor. He invested his earning in figure skating and won a gold at the Special Olympics Winter Games at PyeongChang in 2013.”

Seeking support for the SO Bharat, Rekhi said, “We hope to have the sports fraternity to join hands with the Special Athletes of SO Bharat to bring about inclusion through sports, specifically Unified Sports while also spreading awareness about them.

Special Olympics is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences. Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

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