Local authorities, UNICEF and Special Olympics join efforts to create inclusive communities in Eastern Kazakhstan
SEMEY, Kazakhstan, 29 May 2013 - The Administration of East Kazakhstan Region (EKR), UNICEF in Kazakhstan and the Special Olympics Kazakhstan and have joined efforts in a programme to promote inclusive communities for children with disabilities through engaging them in sports activities and special sustainable programmes in the Region.
The goal of the 14-month pilot programme is to develop opportunities in sports, health and education for home-based children with disabilities and their families in eastern Kazakhstan. The project will serve as a model for inclusive initiatives for people with intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities.
In the run-up to the International Child Protection Day, home-based children with disabilities, their families and caregivers, coaches and teachers from regular schools and special schools and students from the State Medical University of Semey gathered on 29 May in Semey at a sports event organized the local city administration and by UNICEF and Special Olympics. The event also coincided with the global launch of the State of the World’s Children 2013 flagship report, which highlights the inclusion and contribution of children with disabilities to the mainstream society.
Importance of sports and health programmes
The event included sports competitions as well as a series of adapted sport and physical activities, information exchange and health clinics for and about children with intellectual and multiple disabilities. Also, Special Olympics models were demonstrated promoting inclusive initiatives around sport, health and education for disabled children aiming to implement a sustainable programme in Semey for children with disabilities and their families driven by local volunteers and the administration of Semey City.
“There is no need to say, as you all know that sport, recreation and play are a fun way to learn values and lessons that will last a life time. They promote friendship and fair play. They teach team work, discipline, respect, and the coping skills necessary to ensure that children develop into caring individuals. They help prepare young people to meet the challenges they will face and to take leadership roles within their communities. Under this partnership, we stand for improved access of children with disabilities to health, education and recreation in East Kazakhstan Region. In the long run, the whole programme is aimed at building inclusive societies throughout the country for all children, regardless of their health state, educational background and income and social status,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative Radoslaw Rzehak at the opening ceremony.
“We express our deep gratitude to the City Administration of Semey, and the City Sports Department as well as UNICEF in Kazakhstan for this excellent opportunity to engage young athletes, children and their families in sports and health activities and the opportunity for the children to communicate with each other and make friends,” said Bjoern Koehler, the Manager of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Initiative of the Europe Eurasia Regional Office.
The event also included the following: Special Olympics Young Athletes programme – adapted physical activities for children with intellectual disabilities involving their families; Special Olympics Motor Activity Programme – adapted sport specific activities for children with profound intellectual disabilities and significant physical disabilities; Special Olympics Unified Sport - brings non-disabled and disabled children together to play in the same team; Special Olympics Forum – provides significant information on intellectual disability and will inform about the benefits of physical activity for children with intellectual disabilities.
The students from the state Medical University of Semey received theoretical and practical training on health education and screenings for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The students conducted the screening of the athletes and taught them hygienic practices. The students also helped organize the Young Athletes demonstration for 25 children (aged 2-7) and their families engaged in physical activities and socializing.
In a special survey designed for students about their Special Olympics experience, over 80 per cent of students indicated that they had no specific training on health care and intellectual disabilities. After the experience, over 68 per cent gave a rating of “high” in terms of better understanding the needs of people with intellectual disabilities.
The importance of physical activity was also emphasized. Family members spoke openly about their desperation to find opportunities for their children, many who have severe disabilities and who are cared for at home. One mother said: “I’ve been waiting for an organization like Special Olympics to give my child the chance to join regular activities. I have been worried to take my child out because the public still excludes and stigmatizes people with intellectual disabilities as being too ill and dangerous.” The next step of the project is to activate and empower the families and local partners such as the Medical University. The City Administration of Semey also pledged to involve Special Olympics (home-based children and their families) in the local social programmes undertaken by the city.The programme has already yielded important partnerships between the Central Government, the local regional and city administrations, UNICEF, Special Olympics Kazakhstan and the Medical State University of Semey to further enhance the building of fully inclusive communities throughout Kazakhstan.