Special Olympics Bharat Youth Summit 2019 concluded in Amity University

Noida: Special Olympics Bharat hosted a 3-day national Youth Summit from 28-30 May at Amity University, UP Noida to address the need and importance of creating an inclusive society for all. Over 180 youth participated from 22 states in the summit that was led by a resource team comprising leaders from the Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Asia Pacific, Amity University UP Noida and Special Olympics Bharat. Anjum Chopra, former Indian women cricket captain and Air Marshal Denzil Keelor along with many other dignitaries graced the occasion.

The Youth Summit began with understanding & analyzing the current scenario of Unified schools in India. Through various workshops, group activities and panel discussions, the summit focused on bringing together youth leaders – people with & without intellectual disability to come up with a plan for increasing inclusion in their respective schools or communities through Unified Sport, inclusive youth leadership, or other elements of Youth engagement. The activities were largely led by unified pairs who further stressed on the importance of nurturing unified schools in the country & the urgency to train people to become the change agents of inclusion in their home communities.

Over the three days, Youth leaders received tools and resources to lead projects for social impact and inclusion through Unified Sport in their schools and communities while adult leaders learned how best to grow and enrich youth engagement in their respective regions. On the concluding day of the summit, the National Youth Council was announced followed by a unified skit & a panel discussion to address the importance of engaging youth in promoting inclusion. Having successfully achieved the goal of creating a proactive Youth Activation Committee of the NCR SO Bharat will announce a National Youth Council (composed of youth leaders from all over India) of 15 members (with and without ID) to spread the movement all over India, bringing more youth to join in through the youth.

The Panel discussion witnessed an exchange of thoughts and perceptions on Inclusion and how each can affect it , expressed by eminent persons from diverse backgrounds.

The Panelist included:

• Alexandra Westerbeek, Chief Communications UNICEF

• Ashish Shah, CEO, Delhi Dynamos Football Club

• Debayan Sen, Sr Asst Editor, ESPN

• Madhu Lamba, CEO, Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust

• Neha Singh, CSR, Herbalife Nutrition

On the occasion, Air Marshal (Retd.) Denzil Keelor PVSM, KC, AVSM, VrC, Founder & CEO said, “SO Bharat, “The Youth is showing the way. The National Youth Summit 2019 has demonstrated the power of the youth by creating a platform for them to express themselves and create plans which would help them drive Inclusion in their respective states. But let us remember that this is a start-up , we need to plan ahead and keep moving on. With over a lakh schools being ‘Unified Schools’ across India, this is truly heading towards a Revolution to spread Acceptance, Respect, Recognition and Inclusion for all.”

Ms Anjum Chopra, Former Captain , Indian Women’s Cricket team expressed her thoughts, “Inclusion is to include everybody. It is brave on the part of those who include everyone as it is on the part of those who struggle to get included. It is a wonderful concept and it is not easy. And also, sport by no means is easy. You have to take a decision at that moment. So what the Athletes are doing at SO Bharat is not easy. It is wonderful!”

Mr Dipak Natali, Vice President , Special Olympics Asia Pacific Region said, “Everything that people with Intellectual Disabilities want is important to all of us because Inclusion is important to all of us. This is only the beginning of what we intend to do not just in India but all over the world. The Youth leaders participating at the summit are pioneers in leading the way in Unified schools and to a Unified generation.”

ESPN, which is a global partner in the Special Olympics movement, recognized 16 schools with an ESPN Unified Champion Schools Distinction Award for their successful execution of ‘Inclusion movement’. ESPN and Special Olympics continue to collaborate in initiatives that leverage the power of sports to promote an environment of social inclusion and acceptance, by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities. India was one of the first few global recipients of the ESPN funding when the Special Olympics Unified Sports program was initiated in September 2013.