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WAY TO GO! Special

Olympics Jamaica impacting communities through sports, health awareness

Friday, September 15, 2017

Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) Executive Director Lorna Bell says the body is pleased to have the opportunity to help build communities through sports and healthy athletes' projects.

SOJ is set to host the 2017 Healthy Athletes Training and Screening for 60 young athletes from Manchester and St Elizabeth, from November 3-4 at Treasure Beach Sports Park in St Elizabeth.

The event is organised and coordinated through a partnership with Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the regional office of the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, Lions Club International, Digicel, and the Treasure Beach-based Breds Foundation.

Trained medical clinicians, including those from other Caribbean Special Olympics programmes, will be providing free screening of the eyes, ears and teeth, as well as promoting the importance of physiotherapy and overall health awareness.

A total of six medical doctors have registered to observe the training and screening. Jamaica will have 25 new clinicians accessing this training.

Over 300 Special Olympics unified and under-15 footballers will also be in action at the SOJ's annual football competition.

“The UNICEF team is excited to have PAHO/WHO partnering with Special Olympics Jamaica. We at Special Olympics Jamaica are elated that we can have our Caribbean programmes here, and that all our partners are able to assist us in providing a great experience for our special athletes through friendly competition,” Bell said in a statement.

“SOJ is all about inclusion, and only recently our most famous Special Olympics athlete Nigel Davis was appointed to the board of SOJ's board of directors. Nigel is also a roller skating coach ,” Bell added.

Dr Anselm Hennis is slated as a keynote speaker at the event.

Hennis, from Barbados, is the director of non-communicable diseases at PAHO/WHO. He will explain how the Special Olympics healthy athletes programme is contributing to the implementation of PAHO/WHO regional Plan of Action on Disability and Rehabilitation in all Caricom countries.

Maria Soledad Cisternas, United Nations special envoy on disability and accessibility, will also give an address through a video presentation. Cisternas will speak on how sports is fundamental under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, which has been ratified by most CARICOM countries.

SOJ, in tandem with UNICEF and other partners, held a healthy athletes conference for medical practitioners in May. It was supervised by Javier Vasquez, the Special Olympics International global health director. At the conference, Dr Noreen Jack, the PAHO/WHO representative in Jamaica, outlined the organisation's drive to promote health awareness for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Special Olympics movement provides athletic opportunities as well as health care to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, with the goal of instilling confidence and promoting their chances of leading successful lives.

SOJ has championed healthy athletes screening across the island, and only last year over 120 people with intellectual disabilities were screened in the parish of Westmoreland.