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Yesterday we shared a video announcing the partnership between the Peace Corps and Special Olympics. I’m excited to follow up on that video with a great story about a Special Olympics employee and former Peace Corps volunteer. Read her thoughts below to see why she’s excited for this partnership.

“It is always a fun day in the office when I get to combine two of my greatest passions: Peace Corps and Special Olympics. In 2003, I packed up, fit my life into two suitcases, and moved down to Dangriga, Belize to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer and work with the Garifuna people. While it was the most challenging job I’ve ever had, it was also my very favorite. For two years my chief role was to wake up and find a way to pitch in and help out. I can’t imagine a better way to spend those days.

Nowadays, I don’t get to live on the Caribbean ocean or to hear the Garifuna drums each night, but I do get to work for Special Olympics International and work to support our Programs in developing countries around the world. Last night, my two worlds collided and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

It is hard to believe that both Special Olympics and Peace Corps were founded by the same family, the Shrivers, in the 1960s. Both have incredibly strong missions with a service ethic that is woven throughout everything that they do. Both organizations are committed to empowering youth, adults, and entire communities and it is hard to believe that almost fifty years that the two organizations have never formally collaborated. Yesterday, we changed that.

There has long been a history of informal collaborations that happen locally, without the full range of support from the international offices. Peace Corps staff volunteered with Special Olympics, Special Olympics staff served as peace Corps volunteers. Peace Corps volunteers helped out with local coaching and competitions, but with the new partnership, Peace Corps volunteers will be placed with Special Olympics Programs and Regional Offices for up to two years.

While the initial pilot will involved five countries (Peru, Jordan, Ecuador, Morocco, and South Africa), we are dreaming big and hope to see the partnership expand to each of the 77 countries that Peace Corps currently has a presence in. We will create opportunities for members of the SO Movement in the US to serve as Peace Corps volunteers, for current Peace Corps volunteers to serve as coaches or SO volunteers, and create a new training curriculum that will help educated community leaders about intellectual disabilities.

At the signing, Tim said:
“This collaboration between Special Olympics and the Peace Corps will accomplish a number of things, including meeting the human need to serve from the heart. We are in a world where there are attitudes of mass destruction and the Peace Corps has a way of curing attitudes of fear through their volunteers. We look forward to the Peace Corps taking on a new challenge to work with children with intellectual disabilities throughout the world in a targeted way to help the most neglected population on earth.”

The partnership is a game changer for Special Olympics and I can’t wait to see how by joining together, we can continue to change the world and improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.”

Kristy Hays
Director of Strategic Investments, Special Olympics International
Peace Corps Volunteer, Belize, 2003-2005

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