Special Olympics recently started collaborating with the Peace Corps on various initiatives in parts of the world where our respective work coincides. Panama is one such place, and we recently received an update from Catherine Fabiano, who is Special Olympics’ first dedicated Peace Corps volunteer. She is assigned to work for one year with the Central American Games’ Games Organizing Committee and our regional Special Olympics office in Latin America. Her update is below. Enjoy!
It wouldn’t be a typical day for me without waking up to the sweet sounds of wild parrots, reggae music emanating from the rickety buses known as “diablo rojos”, or the view of ships bisecting the country carrying goods to other parts of world. I could only be in Panama.
This is where I work for the Peace Corps on a special yearlong assignment supporting the endeavors of Special Olympics Latin America. Recently, an agreement was passed between Peace Corps and Special Olympics to encourage collaboration worldwide in areas where their interests coincide. This can be through promoting advocacy awareness for persons with disabilities, supporting local or national events, and involving communities where volunteers live and serve. After completing my two-year service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Panama, I signed on for a third year as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, with the primary responsibility of implementing this agreement.
Here in Panama, Special Olympics has grown throughout the past years with activities and games taking place all over the country. As Peace Corps Volunteers, we are generally placed in the more rural, poorer areas of the country with the mission of providing technical support to community projects while promoting a better understanding of our two cultures. For Special Olympics, Peace Corps Volunteers can also serve as connectors to link their community members to SO programs in their local area, be it through encouraging community members to volunteer in local games, or through identifying potential new athletes.
Even though our involvement with Special Olympics in Panama is just beginning, the response from Peace Corps Volunteers interested in getting involved has been overwhelming! Many of our own volunteers are interested in serving as volunteers themselves for Special Olympics activities. Some even have the experience of volunteering for the organization back in the US.
In addition to getting involved on the local level, Peace Corps Volunteers will also get the opportunity to lend their support during the Central American and Caribbean Games taking place in Panama City in April of 2012. This will be a great chance to further solidify the partnership that has formed between the two organizations and help out athletes from around the world.
While we are just beginning to explore the possibilities for collaboration, I am very excited to see where this coming year takes both me and the organizations I serve. My hope is that this partnership does not cease when my time as a volunteer is over, but that Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the country can continue involving their communities in expanding Special Olympics programs to reach where they live. I also hope that our efforts in Panama serve as an example to our posts in other countries of how implementing this agreement through creativity and teamwork can further our missions throughout the world.