Political and natural calamities rocked Special Olympics programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Despite their worlds literally crumbling around them, our resilient program leaders and athletes carry on.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents launched attacks targeting the US embassy, NATO Headquarters and police buildings on 13 September. Blasts occurred at the first two locations and for the next three hours there was intense gunfire in the city centre between gunmen and the police.
SO Afghanistan’s National Director Sayed Hewad Akbari lives 300m away from the fighting zone, and was trapped in his car for 12 hours due to massive roadblocks. Sports Director Abdul Karim Azizi’s day was made more harrowing by not being able to reach his children at school, after hearing reports that a rocket hit a school bus. He was relieved to find them safe but shaken three hours later after the roads had cleared.
Mr. Akbari says, “Nonetheless, I am proud to say that the spirit of Special Olympics is very much alive. The morning after the attacks, we were scheduled to hold athletic events at the Olympic stadium. Although we gave the athletes and their coaches the option to
reschedule, they were very keen to go ahead with the events.”
In the Sindh province of southern Pakistan, torrential monsoon downpours flooded the area, where Special Olympics Pakistan is located. Over seven million people, 1.36 million homes and eight million acres of fertile farmland were devastated by this natural
All schools, public grounds and swimming pools are declared shut during this time. Many victims also lost access to clean drinking water, resulting in outbreaks of diarrhea.
The dengue virus is rampant in Punjab, a neighboring province. In many parts of
Sindh province, power supply has been interrupted, making it impossible to
access office buildings and affecting SO Pakistan’s operations.
Living in Singapore, where we take stability very much for granted, I can only imagine the emotional rollercoaster our athletes, coaches, volunteers and colleagues in Afghanistan and Pakistan are going through. But they remain strong, even taking on a determined resolve to carry on in spite of their circumstances.
SO Pakistan’s General Secretary Mrs. Ronak Lakhani remains upbeat and believes “business must go on as usual,” starting with separate EKS day celebrations in Karachi and Lahore, where athletes will play unified in a leading bank’s annual cricket tournament.
Also in the cards is a dinner evening engaging Pakistani youths and athletes.
I am in awe of both Mrs. Lakhani and Mr. Akbari’s inspiring leadership, and know what drives all the Program members is their unwavering belief in the Movement. Please join me in sending positive thoughts and prayers their way.