One of the benefits of being a global organization in more than 170 countries is that Special Olympics Oregon has some volunteers with international experience. Regional trainer Avtar Singh gives us a peek at what Special Olympics is like in India. Avtar and his wife operate a training center for people with intellectual disabilities in Jamshedpur, India. They have been associated with Special Olympics for 20 years.
Special Olympics is slowly but steadily spreading its wings in developing countries. Although Special Olympics activities have grown rapidly in southern and eastern Asia in the past, there is still a lot more to be done to match the progress made in several developed countries.
Under the leadership of Air Marshal (Rtd.) Denzil Keelor, chairman, Special Olympics Bharat (India), a remarkable boost has been provided to this program, and India has been considered a priority nation due to significant quantitative and qualitative growth in this region. Special Olympics activities are ongoing in almost all the Indian states for nearly a million athletes with the assistance of approximately 6,500 coaches and another 55,000 volunteers, affecting hundreds of thousands of families across the nation.
The game of cricket grips the Indian sub-continent in a frenzy, and it has become extremely popular with the Special Olympics athletes in this part of the world with the introduction of this sport in the Asia Pacific Region. Special Olympics Bharat also acknowledges the global nature and need for this establishment, and as a result, our athletes also actively participate in the Healthy Athlete program, EKS Day, World Disability Day, and other global programs.
Although these numbers do show some solid progress, there are cultural, social, economical, racial, and geographical challenges encountered at every level, which would almost be alien to the developed world. It’s a challenge to branch out from metopolitan areas to remote areas where illiteracy and ignorance (often due to religious or social reasons) often overwhelms hope and support for Special Olympics athletes. Convincing parents of female athletes, providing good sports facilities in the remote villages, inadequate education, entry into unsafe areas, and a lack of infrastructure are some of the major problems that Special Olympics Bharat faces fairly frequently.
"We have overcome numerous challenges to support these athletes at our training center in Jamshedpur, India. Some of these gifted individuals have won accolades both nationally and internationally, bringing delight to their families."
(This article was written by Avtar Singh.)