2013 Special Olympics Global Development Summit – The Youth Voice


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Clement Coulston and Rachel Ward, Global Youth Facilitators for the 2013 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit participated in the inaugural Global Development Summit, which gathered 300 world leaders from areas of government, business, education, economic and social development, media … Continue reading

Farewell to the GYAS

The day is finally upon us – we have to bid farewell to all of our amazing youth leaders and chaperones and officially close the 2013 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit.

The past 10 days have been energetic, thought provoking, inspiring and amazing. These passionate youth leaders from around the world are primed to make positive change in their communities and are ready to promote acceptance, respect and dignity for all people.

As we close out the 2013 GYAS, I wanted to leave you with a few words from Sashi Montaña and Brina Maxino of the Philippines. These dynamic and effervescent young women were elected by their peers to serve as the co-chairs for the 2013 – 2015 GYAS. In this role, they’ll help guide their fellow youth leaders in activating Special Olympics around the world and help to plan for the 2015 GYAS in Los Angles, California.

“My name is Sashi Montaña, youth partner for the Global Youth Activation Summit (GYAS), and I am writing this together with Brina Maxino, Special Olympics athlete, and we are from the Philippines.

We are thrilled and very honored to be elected as the co-chairs for the next GYAS in Los Angeles, World Summer Games 2015! We are beyond grateful for this opportunity to be part of this wonderful movement. We will continue to strive to do our best always.


During the GYAS, we have learned many valuable and practical things and we have made awesome new friends from different delegations around the world who share the same mission and vision. We have created such beautiful memories together that we will never forget! It would be an understatement to say that it has been such an AMAZING summit!
We have definitely caught on the fire of Special Olympics and we want to pass it on to others as it was passed on to us. We want to lead and activate other youth like us to be agents of change.

Brina and I may not be as experienced and skilled as others may be because of their long involvement with Special Olympics, but we learned that what matters most is our hearts. We have the hearts to change the world. We believe that a difference can be made in this world if we have the love and the courage to help, be selfless, and do all that we can do. We will achieve our responsibilities with positive, motivated and changed hearts.

Many believe in us, we believe in ourselves and we believe in each other.”

Their spirit, passion and dedication is a true representation of the power and determination of our GYAS youth leaders.

Good luck to all as you head home to change the world!

Together We Can

Rahma Aly is a Special Olympics athlete from Cairo, Egypt. Along with her partner Farah Ghaffar, Rahma is representing Special Olympics Egypt at the 2013 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit. Below is a speech Rahma developed and presented to her fellow Youth Activation Summit members.

IMG_0148I was honored to represent Special Olympics Egypt (the land of pharos) and to be chosen to attend the Global Youth Summit. I came here to pass a message of awareness, respect and friendship to all of you and to people who still believe that we are different.

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Rahma. I am 16 years old and I have Down syndrome. I think we all know the scientific meaning of the word, it has been explained to us by people around us, maybe our doctors, our families or others who care. I am here with you now full of pride of who I am and everything I have done until now.

I truly think that the first step was my family who were brave enough to face the problem, and when you face a problem you must be true and frank to yourself.

Of course, you all want to know me. I am Rahma and I study at Alsun School for tourism and hotels year 2. I enjoy my study as it prepares me for my future work and career.

Also, I think it is very important to practice any kind of sport, I have chosen swimming to be my favorite. I practice it since I was four years old and I got my first medal at the age of 13.

I travelled to lots of different place – Syria, Lebanon and succeeded to get 4 medals – 2 gold, 1 silver and another bronze.

I am talking also to people who still believe we are different. We are not, we need only a chance and if we are given this opportunity, we will succeed.

Love, understanding, believing and willing to accept others, no matter how different they are is my message. Don’t consider us different, we are part of this society, we can help, participate and succeed.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you for being here. All who helped by advice or support, let us all repeat it strongly and clearly to the whole universe – love is the answer to all the problems of the world. Love fills us with courage, to face, to struggle, to be a part of the globe.

We are still and shall continue fighting to gain our rights.

We are here and together we can.

We are here and together we can.


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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