UNICEF country office in Armenia and Special Olympics Europe Eurasia held the final tournament of Armenia’s first massive inclusive sports initiative for children with and without disabilities on May 17, 2017 at the Cultural and Sports Center of the Union of People with Hearing Impairment. The opening ceremony was attended by the representatives of Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science, and Yerevan municipality.
The event brought together 170 children and their families, teachers of physical education and school principals from 17 schools in Yerevan, volunteer students from Armenian State Institute of Physical Education and other partner organizations.
“Every child has the right to play and every child has the right to learn and be included in the society. What we have learned in Armenia is that very often children with disabilities are provided with a waiver from physical education classes, which prevents them to engage with their peers, as well as develop their potential. Through this project we have tried to provide a fun learning and team building environment to children with and without disabilities to socialize and grow together. At the same time, this is a cost-effective model that can be easily applied by inclusive schools to engage community members and build an inclusive community spirit,” UNICEF Representative in Armenia Tanja Radocaj.
Over an entire year in 2016-2017 children, aged 8-14, have taken part in inclusive sports activities in their communities, assisted by the Armenian State Institute of Physical Education volunteer students. This has been a first time experience for Armenia and will form the basis for developing similar activities throughout the country. The project has also included training seminars for secondary school teachers equipping them with increased understanding of the implementation of an inclusive sports model.
“Together with UNICEF we have trained 34 physical education teachers from 17 Yerevan schools and involved 20 students from the Armenian State Institute of Physical Education, which has been effective for their future practice as teachers,” informed Special Olympics Armenia National Director Artak Israelyan. “Football is more than just a sport, it unites and brings out the real character in each child, so that we are able to see and focus on their abilities.”
In the next few months, UNICEF and Special Olympics will present the project report to Ministry of Education and discuss possibilities on how other inclusive schools can effectively benefit from this model across the country.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics, founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is the world’s largest international organization that uses sports as a tool for social inclusion of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. With its focus on community-based programming, schools education, health improvement and public attitude change, Special Olympics is a proven vehicle for changing individual lives and communities. More than 4.7 million athletes in 169 countries train and compete in 30 Olympic- style summer and winter sports at local, national and international events. Through its sports programs, Special Olympics strives to provide long-term benefits to individuals’ health, self-esteem and social integration. For more information on Special Olympics Armenia, please visit the following website: www.soarmenia.org or contact Mr. Artak Israelyan, National Director, Special Olympics Armenia, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.