What is sport for every child? The chance to kick a ball? To play with friends? Perhaps, the chance to belong to a community, to share in success or sometimes failure, to learn important life lessons about respect, cooperation and leadership. What about sport for every child with disabilities? Is it any different?
This Young Athletes programme — a children’s sport initiative that brings together 2 to 7-year-old children with and without disabilities — proved that sport has the power to transform and improve the lives of children, regardless of their ability.
A group of enthusiastic volunteers and coaches trained through a UNICEF and EU supported initiative implemented by “Special Olympic Macedonia” worked with children from Skopje and Tetovo. The goal of the Young Athletes initiative was to provide opportunities for children to participate in inclusive sports, educational, social and entertaining activities leading to acceptance of disabilities and inclusive communities.
After six months of training, families, teachers, children and community leaders had an opportunity to see the results of “Young Athletes” initiative. So, what did sport teach children?
Children learned acceptance.
Inclusive play helps children without disability to better understand and accept others. Children with and without disabilities learned to get along with others and develop social and cognitive skills.