Making voices heard

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Wow! The 8th, 9th and 10th of this month have been some of the most incredible, stand out, memorable days this year.

My brother and I jetted off to Dublin for the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Governance workshop. Here our committee, the Inclusive Youth Activation Committee (IYAC), held our own workshop to showcase the goals that can be met when young people are given the opportunity to make their voices heard.

The conference was a two-day event that was attended by many people in different roles within their Special Olympics programs across Europe-Eurasia.

In one room there were members the Special Olympics International Board, Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia Board, and representatives from Special Olympics Lithuania, Greece, and Portugal to name a few. They all attended the full conference for the two days. Our IYAC team broke away from the whole group for our own sessions running alongside the main conference.

On the Monday we had an update session. We explained our project to the other committee members, shared our work to date and identified our next steps. In the afternoon we had fundraising and social media workshops. The two workshops were extremely helpful and allowed me to gain understanding of how to utilise my contacts to make our project as helpful as possible. I feel more confident that I am supported with our project and I feel I can complete it to a high standard to ensure it is helpful to young people.

On Monday evening we went for a meal in Dublin. This was fantastic and the vibrant atmosphere really highlighted to me the powerful and brilliant ethos of the Special Olympics. Everyone was included and had fun. By this point my brother Will felt more comfortable with everyone around him. He found himself chatting to everyone and clapping and dancing along to the traditional Irish music.

The next day it was our turn to create a session for the main conference. It was really engaging and we made it interactive so we could portray our messages in a memorable way. Some delegates even said our session was the best! It was the highlight for me because, for the first time ever, Will presented to an audience which allowed his voice to be heard.

He said: “My favourite part was the presentation that I did with my sister. I was nervous but everyone made me feel happy and ready to speak.”

Seeing him enjoy himself and achieve his goals fills me with happiness and admiration. I have Special Olympics and the IYAC to thank for providing us with this astounding opportunity, supporting and allowing us to speak out, giving us the confidence to continue to do so and the knowledge that our views are valued.

The whole experience was unforgettable and a huge point of learning. The fact that when supported and encouraged, Will stood up in front of so many strangers and presented just shows the importance of providing equal opportunity. People with disabilities can reach any goal they have when helped in the right way. The Inclusive Youth Activation Committee is a perfect example of this.

As a sister to someone with intellectual disability, it is heart-breaking to observe a sibling having certain opinions around sport and inclusion being unable to voice them and not having an interested body to convey them to.

The IYAC and Special Olympics provide both and ensure that people with intellectual disabilities have a means by which to tell others their opinions. The organisation provides an ear to listen to those voices and empowers passionate people to make positive changes.