Special Olympics has announced a $25 million gift from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi toward a global expansion of an initiative that promotes inclusion in education for young people.
Special Olympics will use the gift to expand its Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program to Argentina, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Romania, and Rwanda. The program supports the efforts of students with and without intellectual disabilities to create more accepting school environments through three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole-school engagement.
"The Special Olympics movement is being led by young leaders with and without intellectual disabilities who are emerging as the world's greatest teachers of empathy, dignity, courage, and inclusion," said Special Olympics board chair Timothy Shriver. "As we search for a more just and joyful future, we are trusting our hopes to young inclusive leaders who see beyond division and fear and show us how to heal and unite. I am deeply grateful that His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has made an extraordinary commitment to our athletes and their Unified partners in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools."
"The UAE and Special Olympics have a shared vision of a world without discrimination against people of determination," said Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the United States. "Hosting the World Games in Abu Dhabi last year reinforced our commitment to build a society where people of all cultures and abilities are welcomed and celebrated. The advancement of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools initiative will root the values of tolerance and inclusion in educational systems around the world."
(Photo credit: Alina Cojocaru)