Kicking Off Lions & Special Olympics Mission: Inclusion
Today, LCI welcomes guest blogger David S. Evangelista, Special Olympics Vice President of Global Development and Government Relations.
Service has proven to save lives, as well as change them. It has proven to be a common denominator the world over- forging sustainable bonds that last lifetimes and across generations. Service has mobilized communities, even nations, around the ideals of equality, support and a future for all.
So what does football (soccer) have to do with service?
The answer was made vividly clear through the innovation and leadership displayed by 42 Leos from Lions Clubs International District 412- as part of the first-ever Special Olympics Malawi Unified Football Invitational in Lilongwe, Malawi. A national event at CIVO Stadium in central Lilongwe, and with the First Gentleman General Richard Banda (Retired), Vice President Kachali and Minister Kachaje among others, Special Olympics Malawi athletes and Leos suited up for an 11-a-side football match in front of some 7,000 spectators. The Invitational launched the African Leaders Forum on Disability, attended by LCI President Barry Palmer, LCIF Chairperson Wayne Madden and a distinguished delegation from the leadership of Lions Clubs International in Africa.
The partnership event at CIVO Stadium marked the official kick off of the national partnership between Special Olympics Malawi and Lions clubs, and also marked the first formal debut of the Special Olympics – Lions Clubs International expanded partnership design “MISSION: INCLUSION”, where inclusive sports participation serves as a cornerstone to the global partnership- a program proven to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through service.
The Special Olympics inclusive sports program, Unified Sports ®, is a dynamic social tool that brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together to join together on the field of play. This participation has proven to provide sustained social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities, and positively change youth attitudes toward this often marginalized population. With Leos serving as global leaders in community service and advocacy, the match is one that brings added benefits to Leos and Special Olympics athletes alike.
It is therefore fitting that, on a national stage during a most historic convening, Leos led by example in demonstrating for all of Africa that social inclusion, through service, can become a reality for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and in one of the most unlikely settings- a football pitch.
Photo Credits: FERNANDO CAMBEIRO