Thanks a lot to all participants of WYAlympics!! It was unforgettable time!
By Joanna Obrębska, Intern at World Youth Alliance Europe
WYAlympics “Dignity and the Olympics: At the Crossroads of the World” was hosted by World Youth Alliance (WYA)’s UK Chapter. This four day event was the first time that World Youth Alliance’s European region held a camp on the topic of human dignity and people with disabilities in sports! It took place from 24th to 27th of August 2012 in London the weekend before the Paralympic Games began. On the first day, Olivia Darby, Chapter Leader for WYA UK led a workshop on dignity and disabilities. After participants watched the short movie called: Butterfly Circus about the one disable man, who overcame his disability and became a part of the butterfly circus. It was followed by a discussion reflecting on hope.
On Saturday we started with two lectures in Notre Dame University London Centre. The first speaker, Mrs Kathy Sinnott, Former Irish MEP and Founder of Hope Project, spoke on Dignity and Disability As A Thread For Building Joy In Society. She described the historical evolution of attitude to disabled people from ancient Greece to today. She shared also her experience as a mother of disable son on her fight with courts and public institutions and emphasized the point that the incorrect understanding of human dignity in international law leads to human rights abuses. She said that people with disabilities are the not a mistake and have a unique destiny and an important place in society.
The second speaker this day was Mrs. Hillary Schlesinger, pioneer of occupational therapy in Latin America. Her speech was called: How Was I inspired By Disabled People. She shared her experience as an occupational therapist working with disabled people and how she helped develop the Paralympic Sports in Latin America. She revealed how her attitude to her patients had been changing during all her career. The most important of her concerns about disabled was to contribute them into society and train them to find a job, not just to make them feeling normal.
Both of the speakers put emphasis on the meaning of disabled’ life and psychological support, which they need.
After the lectures and lunch all participants went to Regent’s Park and competed in sport activities. Although from time to time it was raining, we had a lot of fun and the vast majority of people stayed till the end and ran three legged races, played team sports games and had a great time. In the evening Olivia Darby led a walk along the river to see Olympics illuminations ending with the Rings on the Tower Bridge.
The third day began in Notre Dame Campus with group discussions about concrete ways to bring what they had learned to their home communities through sports activities, events, or volunteering with the disabled. Later, the next two speakers shared their expertise on Sports and International Relations. The first one was Jonnie Horner, Co-Founder of The Haiti Hospital Appeal and one of the leaders of the new international campaign called ‘The Dream’ which brought a team of Haitian athletes to compete in London 2012. He spoke about the hospital he helped to build for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. With members of the hospital’s staff he organized a trip for them to London to participate in Paralympic games. We were all impressed by the fact that he put his career aside to make a sacrifice to help those people and were inspired by his enthusiasm and hope.
Next speaker was a policy maker, Mrs. Sara Flood-Boanbrun, the Permanent Representative for St. Lucia at the United Nations Organization. Her lecture was called: The Olympics: Human Solidarity and Solidarity Between Peoples and Nations in Sport. She told us how she met World Youth Alliance at the United Nations and then she explained the role of Olympics and Paralympics in diplomacy and relations among nations. As positive results of these sports games she found among others: linking communities with each other, fighting against discrimination, expressing human dignity through sports, building peace, developing individuality or striving for perfection.
In the afternoon we did Scavenger Hunt around London. We were divided into groups and had to achieve a set of tasks. It was the great opportunity for us to meet better, work together and to explore the beautiful city of London. That evening we went to Hampstead Health for a moonlight picnic and sports competitions overlooking the London Skyline.
On the last day we met at Regent’s Park as well and competed in sports games some of which were aimed at making us understand how disabled people feel. After a closing reflection and speech on hope and inspiration by Daniel Wiśniewski, Regional Director of Europe and Olivia Darby, Chapter Leader for the UK, the participants went home where we hope they will bring this experience to their home communities. It was a really good time for all participants and we hope that everyone will bring home nice resolutions, memories and friendships J!