The bigger, the better. The more, the merrier!

Today’s trip to Pitsanulok Centre was a life-changing experience for all of us. Aside from meeting the young athletes, we were given the opportunity to interview mothers of non-intellectually disabled children, who inspired us through their values, open mindset and great understanding as parents.

Pitsanulok Centre

We started our journey at 9am, heading towards Pitsanulok Centre alongside Rachaniwan Bulakul (National Director, Special Olympics Thailand), Choochai Angkabkaew (Young Athletes, Project Manager Thailand), Rebecca Ralston (Senior Manager Young Athletes, SOI) and Kaitlyn Smith ( Manager Young Athletes, SOI) from Special Olympics.

As we arrived, a group of coaches and young athletes in the centre warmly welcomed us.

Warm welcome by the young athletes and coaches from Pitsanulok Centre.. Photo by Eunice Chee.

Before beginning our activities with the young athletes, we were given a tour on the site by Roypim Jekaram (Deputy Director of Pitsanulok Centre) and Dr. Kanyarat (Occupational Therapist). The centre does not only provide basic therapy and classes, but also alternative therapies such as horse therapy, reflexology walk stone, and a futsal ground (for playing a type of football) and great accommodation for the family who live far away to stay overnight.

Introduction tour of the Centre by Roypim Jekaram and Dr. Kanyarat
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
Reflexology walk stone
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
Petting the horse they use for therapy.
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
The stones massage the feet and stimulate acupressure points
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)

The event started off with a cheerful welcome by the young athletes and their parents/caregivers. The number of young athletes present was double yesterday; it was indeed ‘the more, the merrier’ for us! This time the warm-up session was very energetic, very upbeat and we surely sweated a lot!

Warm-up session with the young athletes
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
It was FUN and we were sweating after the warm-up!
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
Lots of jumping, fun warm up sessions to loosen our body and even more smiles!
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)

The activities were divided into three stations (see picture of sketch by Choochai). All the participants spread over the three stations to interact with the young athletes.

Detailed sketch done by Choochai
Credit: Aida
Various activities together with the young athletes
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
A balloon game
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
Aida playing sports together (passing bean bag) with the young athletes, supported by their parent/caretaker
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
Everyone is having fun!
Credit: Eunice Chee.
Kaitlyn was rooting for the young athlete, good job!
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)
Everyone is included
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)

Before we ended our journey today, we had a valuable interview with two mothers of non-intellectually disabled young athletes and a coach from private sector.

Interviewing U-ni’s (left) and Ton’s (right) mothers. Both mothers are very hopeful and driven to have the best for their child.
Credit: Eunice Chee

What we learned from this interview is that the mothers are open-minded and hopeful towards their child. So, despite the social stigma, they are willing for their child to join the centre. Just like the rest of the mothers, they want the best for their children; the centre provides opportunities for all children to learn through playing sports and mix around by making friends. We are truly inspired by their way of thinking and strength on raising their child towards a better way of living.

We are super happy and overwhelmed with our trip today and we have learned a lot from them. Initially, we thought that we were supposed to bring joy to the young athletes—yet it is them who brought joy and ray of sunshine to us! We smiled and laughed with joy together.

Group photo of us with the mothers.
Credit: Aida

Individual Reflections:

From left Aida (IKEA Tebrau), Pearl (IKEA Cheras), U-ni (young athlete), Eunice (IKEA Damansara)
Credit: Aida

Pearl: Today’s trip was definitely one of my favourite moments! We were greeted warmly by a group of friendly coaches and cheerful young athletes. I am so honoured to be given the chance to meet more wonderful athletes today; a bigger group, merrier faces, they are wonderfully bright and very energetic children!

Doing sports together with them and their parents/caregivers gives me great joy and happiness—I couldn’t stop smiling! Many of the young athletes today are very active, however I was even more excited to get to know two young athletes Win and Opal. Both are lively and bubbly, not afraid to try anything. Friendly and loves giving high fives! ? From what I’ve discovered and experienced, truly, sports help the young athletes to develop their abilities, helping them to improve their social skills with others, and fine-tuning their motor skills.

I see hope—not just in their faces but also in those of their parents/caregivers.
From this I am inspired by the mothers who are extremely persistent and strong, and who persevere in their role of parenting. I see them as role models for myself and others. This is a very good programme for the young athletes and I believe one day they will be great athletes and also great models for society. ?

Pearl with Win
Credit: Nor Atiqah (Pearl)
Pearl with Opal
Credit: Nor Atiqah (Pearl)

Aida: The opinion from my heart is that we humans are all the same. We humans are not perfect because we are born in various forms in life. What I learned today is patience. The patience and perseverance of mothers in raising a special child. With the patience of parents and teachers because they are here. Moreover, even though they are unlike other children, seeing them smiling is a therapy for everyone. And I think they are inspiration to me. And I think I need to be grateful for what I have now.

Aida with Chokun’s mother
Credit: Aida

Eunice: I heard about diversity and inclusion very often. However, I have never truly experienced it until this trip. I have learned a lot from the young athletes and the parents in Pitsanulok Centre. Through the activities and interaction with them, we can see there are no barriers and gaps between them. They have not classified themselves, and accept one another as they are. It is great to see the young athletes brought up in such inclusive environment, it will definitely make a difference in their thinking and values when they grow up. I truly love this place, a warm and lovely place that will melt your heart; I wish I could be back to here again.

Eunice and Piah. Back to childhood once again!
Credit: Boonyanut Chompaen (Earng)