I think the move­ment of Spe­cial Olympics has been a great suc­cess (in China). We have grown all over the coun­try. ”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

chair­man of Spe­cial

“We weren’t plan­ning all this for fund­ing,” said Qian, a ju­nior. “We’ll be do­ing it re­gard­less of what hap­pens.”

Uni­fi­ca­tion has be­come part of her life, as her school joined China’s emerg­ing net­work of Spe­cial Olympics Uni­fied Schools more than a year ago. Work­ing to­gether with the dif­fer­ently abled, they’ve held fes­tive galas, sports meet­ings, char­ity events and many other ac­tiv­i­ties.

That ex­pe­ri­ence brought Qian to this year’s Spe­cial Olympics, where some 20 of her school­mates trans­lated their uni­fied ex­pe­ri­ences into vol­un­teer work.

More and more schools and univer­si­ties are sign­ing up for uni­fied school ini­tia­tives in the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to Spe­cial Olympics’ East Asia com­mit­tee, more than 50 schools and univer­si­ties in China could en­ter the pro­ject by 2017. The pro­ject was launched glob­ally in 2008 and has 1,700 par­tic­i­pat­ing schools and univer­si­ties.

“I’ve seen very ob­vi­ous im­prove­ment from my stu­dents af­ter such ac­tiv­i­ties,” said Qi Peipei, a teacher from Bei­jing Haid­ian Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion School. “They’re much more will­ing to open up and would hap­pily in­tro­duce them­selves to things un­known.”

Qi added: “While per­form­ing on stage to­gether, you of­ten can­not tell their dif­fer­ences.”

Nakata Hidetoshi, the Ja­panese soc­cer star and Spe­cial Olympics global am­bas­sador,

“You can judge how civ­i­lized a so­ci­ety re­ally is by the level of dis­abled per­sons’ en­gage­ment in the so­ci­ety,” said Wang Meimei, deputy di­rec­tor of the China Dis­abled Per­son’s Fed­er­a­tion and head of the China del­e­ga­tion at the 2015 Spe­cial Olympics.

In the past 30 years, China has ad­vanced from just giv­ing re­lief to those with spe­cial needs to cre­at­ing a wel­com­ing so­cial en­vi­ron­ment, but there still is room for im­prove­ment, Wang said.

Vol­un­teer work at the Los An­ge­les Games im­pressed Wang — par­tic­i­pants were highly self-or­ga­nized and proac­tive in their con­tri­bu­tions to the games.

“Thanks to the gov­ern­ment’s reach, (work­ing with the pro­gram) we can bring Spe­cial Olympics to each city and town, even to each street,” said Mary Gu, re­gional pres­i­dent of Spe­cial Olympics East Asia. “De­vo­tion from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been a bench­mark for other coun­tries.”

Gu added that com­mu­nitylevel vol­un­teer work needs to in­crease.

“I hope more peo­ple will take the Spe­cial Olympics idea to heart in the fu­ture and carry it around their life,” she said.

That would de­pend on the public’s recog­ni­tion of the need.

“A so­ci­ety with­out the dis­abled’s par­tic­i­pa­tion is never a good so­ci­ety,” said Wang, from the China Dis­abled Per­sons’ Fed­er­a­tion.

On the fi­nal week of the Los An­ge­les Games, Pan, the phi­lan­thropist, dis­played over­whelm­ing en­thu­si­asm for the ath­letes. He cheered them on at ev­ery step. He tried to catch his breath dur­ing a spir­ited soc­cer match with them.

And he crammed his ac­count on Weibo, a Chi­nese Twit­ter-like online ser­vice, with pic­tures of him along­side the Chi­nese team on pa­rade in­side the Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum.

Pan’s honor, joy and pride in the ath­letes made it clear that, in­deed, things have changed. Con­tact the writer at sunye@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese ath­letes con­tend­ing at the track and field game dur­ing the 2015 Spe­cial Olympics Games.

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