NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has commended Lions Club International Foundation for forging a partnership with Special Olympics which she said has had a positive impact on millions of individuals across the world.
The First Lady, who is the Patron of Special Olympics Kenya, said this unique partnership which has been there for the last 15 years has helped the two organizations share a mission of inclusivity.
She expressed her delight that the work undertaken by Special Olympics in Kenya and across the world – has transformed the lives of people with disability.
“You have provided a unique platform for them to participate in sporting activities, and an opportunity to pursue a sports career,” said the First Lady.
The First Lady was speaking this morning during celebrations marking the partnership between Lions Club International Foundation and Special Olympics Kenya held at Loresho Primary School grounds.
A Unified Football match between the Leos and Special Olympics was part of the celebrations.
The First Lady said sports have a unique ability to transcend across economic, physical and social cultural barriers.
“I am convinced that sports is an important vehicle that will provide our youth with a positive competitive spirit, determination and courage to overcome social barriers that have restricted inclusive participation – because of generalizations, assumptions, prejudices or stereotypes,” she said
The First Lady, an avid supporter and key participant in sports especially athletics said she has personally witnessed how sports has had lasting positive impact on the lives of children.
“And while we must not underestimate the power of sports to transform attitudes, and promote inclusion, we must not only focus on the why inclusiveness, but on the how, she said.
She pointed out that sports for people with disability must allow participation at all levels without hindrance.
The First Lady said the partnership between the two organizations was informed by research showing that a large percentage of Special Olympic athletes had not accessed eye examinations services.
“We know that many partnership efforts mostly target larger population issues such as malaria, HIV and Aids, Cancer, and unfortunately invest less on people with disabilities – they are largely under-served group when it comes to health issues not to mention eye-care,” she said.
She applauded the Special Olympics and Lions Club International Opening Eye programs for their steadfast and unwavering work.
Through this partnership, the First Lady pointed out the two organizations have managed to reach out to 400,000 athletes with screening, and offering close to 200,000 special eyewear.
She noted that in the last one year the two organizations managed to perform desperately needed free eye surgeries to six Special Olympic Kenya athletes.
The medical exercise, said the First Lady, averted tragedies of potential blindness, as well as protecting the victims from experiencing multiple vulnerabilities.
“With your invaluable work, you have not only provided access to life-changing corrective surgeries and saving sight, but provided them with confidence and determination to pursue a future in sports,” said the First Lady.
She also expressed gratitude to the doctors, thousands of volunteers, vision specialists and educators who have selflessly given of themselves to bring joy and essential services to persons with disability.
“This is a valuable reminder that the needs of persons with disability is not about them, but about all of us,” said the First Lady.
She said today’s football match is a demonstration of the powerful success of the collaboration between the two organization.
Other speakers included the Lions Club International President, Dr. Naresh Aggarwal, International Vice-President of the Club Jung-Yul Choi, the International Director, Lions Club Mrs. Aruna Oswal and the Chairman Special Olympics Kenya Thuo Chege.
They said inclusivity has transformed the attitudes of those with disabilities who are now proud to participate in the development of the country.
They said the two organizations would continue engaging on how to enhance their programmes to make the disabled more excellent athletes.