A Focus on Value and Respect

Day four at the 2013 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit – youth leaders came together to celebrate the power and importance of young people in the Special Olympics Movement.

Read below to hear about some of the amazing activities from the day.

Today, GYAS leaders discussed and identified the values that they see in Special Olympics Project UNIFY. For each value, youth either described its meaning or shared personal experiences corresponding to that value. Through this, we were able to articulate how our unique experiences combine in creating this “for the youth, by the youth” movement. Read a brief sample of the work below to understand the values of Project UNIFY according to our GYAS teams:

  • TEAMWORK — “Teamwork is very important because we are shaped by the people around us. We South Africans believe in the spirit of Ubuntu.” – Vincent Ramorwesi & Thapelo Nthite, South Africa
  • COURAGE — “It takes courage for one to stand by the athletes no matter what problems they face.” – Peter Kamade & Francis Gitau, Kenya
  • THE SPIRIT OF SPORT — “Whether you win or lose at the end, you should always enjoy the process.” – Ngan Ieng Chan & Io Seng Lei, Macau
  • OPPORTUNITY — “Giving youth a voice.” – Giovanna De Luca, Italy
  • ACCEPTANCE — “It fosters positive attitudes towards people with disabilities as it shows their capabilities and talents.” – Rahma Aly & Farah Ghaffar, Egypt
  • RESPECT — Respecting everyone’s difference because ‘we are more alike than different.” – Vashti Thompson & Jodi Cornish, Bahamas

Following an engaging “Youth Do Change the World” session, GYAS leaders headed to Alpensia Resort to watch competitions, explore the Festival Village and participate in the Global Youth Rally, a fun and interactive event that shared the messages of acceptance, unity and friendship with about 900 domestic (Korea) and international students.

The theme of the Global Youth Rally was ‘Tied Together’ and encouraged rally participants to bond together to create awareness for Special Olympics and initiate meaningful social change in their communities, countries and beyond. In an inspiring moment amongst lots of dancing, singing and fun, Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, issued a call to participants, “Who is the next revolutionary… you are! Your time is now. The last great human rights revolution is being lead by you.”

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words… check out a photo album that shares some of the great memories from our adventures today.

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Reflection…What Does this Mean to You?

Is it a fancy word for answering questions? A time to fill out a survey with options (A), (B) or (C)? Or, is reflection a:

  • Summation of one’s personal experiences, feelings and ideas, which influence the way he or she interacts with the world?
  • Opportunity to synthesize new information, with one’s existing knowledge, thus identifying areas of congruity and areas of disparity?
  • Springboard to deepen or modify one’s inner morals and principles, through surmising on topics that challenge us to craft our “personal opinion”?
  • Learning moment when one shares his or her reflection with the group, painting a “clearer and inclusive picture” of the topic?

Today, Youth Leaders at the 2013 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit, engaged in a Comprehensive Reflection Time, even though we have only participated in Four Youth Do Change the World Educational Sessions.  Rather than waiting until the end of the Summit to reflect, we allotted time so we can (1) celebrate our successes (2) identify our challenges and (3) create an action plan moving forward.

Through an interactive protocol, everyone was able to discuss these important questions, while meeting new people.  From the reflection, we co-created a list of seven action points, that we will incorporate throughout the rest of the Summit.  As you can see from these pictures, the value and creative expression from fellow youth leaders is nothing less-than amazing.

As young people, we are redefining how we can best support each other. As co-leaders, we are taking the roles of both teachers and learners. As advocates, we are committing ourselves to equity, inclusion and dignity for all People.

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Youth Do Change the World

Annyeonghaseyo! (which means ‘hello’ in Korean) –

Today, almost 80 youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities from around the world gathered in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the first day of the 2013 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit (GYAS, for short). Over the next week and a half, these passionate and dedicated youth leaders will talk about leadership and share their experiences about spreading the message of Special Olympics to their schools and communities.

Take a look at some of the great photos from our first day of activities! 

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To give you a sneak peek of the amazing leaders here at the GYAS – meet Brina. With her partner Sashi, she’s making history as the first Filipina to represent the Asia Pacific region at the Global Youth Summit.  It’s only Day One and she’s already inspired me with her leadership and determination! Read her story.

Stay tuned over the next week and a half for more great updates from the youth leaders themselves!!

A Call to Action – Ready to Share YOUR Story?

In history classes, students learn about the lives of our Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and even Benjamin Franklin.  Students discover the important contributions these leaders sacrificed in leading the Citizens of the United States of America, through times of happiness and sadness.  Each one of them had a unique personal message and perspective of this world.  Now I ask, “What is your story?”

When Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw the injustices, the exclusion and the inequities facing persons with disabilities, she founded a Camp to capitalize on the idea of “yes we can!” through engaging in sports.  For nearly 45 years, Special Olympics has grown from a vision to a reality, empowering more than 4 million Special Olympics athletes from over 170 countries.  Many initiatives such as Healthy Athletes, Spread the Word to End the Word, and Project UNIFY have strengthened our message of inclusion, acceptance and dignity for all people.


The United Nations Post-2015 Civil Society is part of a group of consultants from throughout the world, inquiring for our experiences as youth in today’s world.  The topic is on Young People and Inequalities and the last day for submissions is January 18, 2013.

Now is it YOUR Turn, to share YOUR Story!

We encourage you to:

  1. Create an account which can be completed quickly.
  2. Contribute to the online discussion about the inequalities facing Young People:
    1. Do we believe that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as people without disabilities?
    2. Do we co-create inclusive school environments that are supportive, respectful and equitable?
    3. Do we value that people of all abilities are assets that can contribute their unique gifts and talents to the community?
  3. Follow @inequality2015 on Twitter; Tweet including the Hashtag, #inequalities2015
  4. Activate your friends, family and the community to contribute too!

You may be thinking, where should I begin?  You can use the following paragraph to start your post, and then share your personal experiences from Special Olympics.

I am an advocate and believer in the Special Olympics Movement that provides opportunity and growth for persons with intellectual disabilities.  Through awareness and education, youth are co-creating equitable and inclusive schools, celebrating the talents and gifts of all people.  Through Unified Sports and Inclusive Youth Leadership, we continue to crush the barriers of exclusion and build communities of respect and inclusion.  We are thankful for the progress that has been made in making this world a more just place for all people.   We declare that more needs to break free from chains of hatred and initiate community bonds of acceptance and love. 

Thank YOU for your leadership and courage in taking action on our Dignity Revolution for all People!

We are United,

We are Committed,

And we ARE Agents of Change!

About the Author: Clement Coulston is a National Youth Activation Committee Member who is co-chairing a committee that is developing an Inclusive Youth Leadership Guide for high school students, and State YACs to engage, support and encourage this type of leadership.