During the past week, the Asia Pacific Project Unify team travelled to Bareilly and New Delhi in India for Special Olympics Bharat’s Project Unify soft launch. Manager Lynn Tan shares the first hand experience of her week with youths committed to create change in their communities.
“Project Unify is now ‘official’ in the Asia Pacific region with our pilot launching in Special Olympics Bharat! On 8 May 2012, we had a successful launch on the school grounds of Bishops Conrad Senior Secondary School in Bareilly, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 250 kilometers east of the national capital New Delhi. 1,500 youth with and without intellectual disabilities participated in the launch.
This youth-led event was filled with so much positive energy! They marched in the school field with sign panels in their hands that stated “Unity” – “Empower” – “Strength”- “Grace” – “Courage”. These words were not simply words, but declarations of their commitment to drive Project Unify forward in their school community and beyond. Their commitment was further demonstrated with an enthusiastic torch run to launch the festivities.
The celebration continued with dance performances and a kite parade (Bareilly is famous in India for its colourful kites). The beautiful kites were presented to the guests of honour and students expressed their joy in being part of the movement by writing on each kite their hopes for Project Unify. One student wrote, “Project Unify is making the world equal.” Well said indeed! The youths continued to celebrate the event with Unified bocce and basketball games. Loud cheers could be heard on the field and court as the athletes with and without disabilities played on. All smiles shown on the faces as the team mates accepted and included each other in their games.
To end the launch, the students gathered to discuss their aspirations for Project Unify in a lively Youth Summit. One that touched me most for the day: the confident young boy who took over the microphone and said, “Project Unify is not just a program, but a revolution that will bring us all to par!””