The beginning of 2021 coincided with the start of an international project that co-opted 9 partners in a joint initiative that encourages social inclusion and improves the cognitive, social and motor skills of children with intellectual disabilities. The partner organizations work in Ireland, Iceland, Poland, Romania, Montenegro, Slovakia, Lithuania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
During the three years of implementation, the project “Inclusion through sport for children with developmental disabilities” will involve more than 5,200 children and young people with and without intellectual disabilities aged 6 to 12 years from 55 cities in Central, Southern Europe and the Balkans. They will participate in sports competitions and team games that value their skills and emphasize the importance of including young people with disabilities in the community.
Cristian Ispas, General Manager of Motivation Romania Foundation and National Director of Special Olympics Romania: “In 1995 we created Motivation Romania Foundation to fight for the rights and independent life of people with disabilities. In 2003 we proposed a new beginning for the Special Olympics Romania program. The project “Inclusion through sports for children with developmental disabilities” is the result of many years of work and innovation in the field of disability. Together with our partners from 8 European countries we will bring a new and unified approach, on the practice of sport for children with intellectual disabilities aged 6 to 12. We also want to involve families in debates and training on health issues. The pandemic has greatly changed the way we work, people’s perceptions, but together with our partners we will find new methods and solutions to implement the activities we have planned. The biggest challenge remains the social inclusion of children and young people with developmental disabilities, and we address this challenge by bringing them to sports activities where they can show their skills and abilities.”
The Covid – 19 pandemic restrictions represented a challenge for the coordinators of the sports activities, but not an obstacle. The activities had a flexible calendar, to protect the health of all participants during the project`s sports events.
Here is how some of the participants in the project received the invitation to sports activities:
Special Olympics Montenegro: `The relevance of this project is confirmed by honest and positive reactions of children with and without intellectual disabilities and their parents, caregivers, family members as well as coaches and volunteers.
The beginning of the project was limited by measures against the Covid pandemic. Therefore, the project activities did not go as planned related to sport training sessions and competitions.
Nevertheless, Special Olympics Montenegro organized educational workshops for coaches to train them for further engagement through working with children of this age. The motivation and enthusiasm that the coaches gained during the two-day workshops was felt in the first trainings with the children.
On the other side, Family Health Forums were held to provide helpful advice from health experts about healthy life styles, physical activity, recommendations for parenting during the pandemic, as well as information on activities to be covered by the project. Parents of children with ID do not hide their excitement for this kind of support and gratitude for this aspect of their children’s involvement in the community. On the other hand, parents of children without ID believe that inclusion is learned and lived from an early age. They are therefore proud that their children will socialize, help and share successes with peers regardless of their abilities. Sport is a great way to make a friendship and team spirit, in addition to being necessary for children’s growth and development.
In the hope that the second part of the year will bring us better conditions, we will continue to work towards fulfilling our goals!
Working together for an inclusive Europe!”
Special Olympics Iceland: `In Iceland, selected sport clubs’ leaders and coaches were very open to work with us to analyze and test the new young athlete development Guide that was made for this project. The focus of the Guide was on basketball and football.
The task was to split up the test process to ongoing training project and as well start a new project.
The mainstream basketball club Haukar became partner in the project and started the activities focusing on football and basketball. Training sessions have been running on and off, depending on the pandemic situation. We are proud to say that in Iceland, participants become more active to meet up the activities in the project.”
The European project “Inclusion through sports for children with developmental disabilities”
is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation. The project is coordinated by Motivation Romania Foundation in partnership with Special Olympics Romania, SO Iceland, SO Slovakia, SO Lithuania, SO Bosnia and Herzegovina, SO Montenegro, SO Europe Eurasia Foundation and Poznan University of Physical Education.
Project’s website: https://inclusivesportsforchildren.eu/
You can contact us: Motivation Romania Foundation – firstname.lastname@example.org