Play is our tool to change the world

It’s hard to believe Special Olympics is hosting our last IWitness trip in 2018! We’re welcoming a special group of co-workers from IKEA Canada, IKEA Japan and the IKEA Foundation to see firsthand the power and impact of Special Olympics Young Athletes in India. During the IWitness trip, co-workers will travel to Kolkata and Birbhum districts in the Indian state of West Bengal to witness the power of play.

For Special Olympics, play is our tool to change the world. We use play, through our Young Athletes programme, to positively impact the lives of children and communities by making the world more accepting and inclusive for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Young Athletes is a sport and play programme for children with and without intellectual disabilities (ID), aged two to seven. Young Athletes highlights the importance of play and includes a series of structured physical activities, songs and games to teach basic motor development skills. Through these play activities, children grow and develop valuable motor skills, like walking and running, while also developing their social, emotional and cognitive skills through interaction with their peers with and without intellectual disabilities. The opportunity for growth changes the family’s perception and leads to a more positive recognition of the value and worth of their child.

Unfortunately, stigma towards intellectual disability is still prevalent around the world and limits access to childhood services, which are critical for all children. Children with intellectual disabilities represent one of the most underserved and disadvantaged populations around the world. In the developing world, where resources are scarce for all children, the issues and obstacles that children with intellectual disabilities face make access to support almost impossible.

But Special Olympics is making long term and lasting change in communities to ensure children with intellectual disabilities are included, respected and have the right to play. Thanks to support from the IKEA Foundation’s Let’s Play for Change campaign, more than 300,000 children with intellectual disabilities in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand are getting access to play-based development activities through Special Olympics Young Athletes. Not only that, we are working to create 5,000 socially inclusive communities that come together to support the overall development and well-being of all children.

The power of play will come to life for our IWItness participants as we visit a variety of schools and community programs running Young Athletes. In Kolkata, we will visit Noble Mission and Manovikas Kendra, two urban special schools that are bringing sport and play to children in their communities. Then we will make the four-hour journey to Birbhum, where the group will visit the homes of two of our Young Athletes and learn more about the power of play in the community for families living below the poverty line. In Birhbum, the group will also get to join in the fun while visiting two community-based play clinics. Throughout the trip, the co-workers will feel the positive energy and excitement that stems from play. It is a contagious feeling and we look forward to seeing a week full of smiles, high-fives and thumbs up for a job well done!

Join us on this amazing journey and experience the power of play!