Incredible week at the Global Youth Leadership Forum, Baku

3rd October 2018

Global Youth Leadership Forum, Baku

We have had such an incredible week at the Global Youth Leadership Forum in Baku. What an absolute privilege and honour it is for Special Olympics GB to have been invited, not just as delegates but to have one of our athletes as co-host of the whole event! Ian Harper (Worcestershire) was an absolute superstar leading the forum. He certainly rose to the occasion and we could not be more proud of his achievement, especially after being announced as one of 10 Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers for Special Olympics!

“Wow, this is just so incredible! I think this is the only time I’ve been left SPEECHLESS!” – Ian Harper

 Ian has made so many great friends on this trip (from Macau, Cyprus, South Africa, to Brazil!) that we know will help to forge such brilliant relationships for Special Olympics Great Britain as we continue to grow and develop youth leadership in our programme. Thank you, Ian!

Over the course of the forum there were incredible panel discussions and workshops lead by the UNFPA, Youth Leaders, and Ministers where we heard from such inspiring, and committed young people, board members, dignitaries, global ambassadors, and public figures.

Thank you to everyone who participated! We enjoyed all of the special perspectives you all shared! We must give special thanks to our new friends: Lucy Meyer (you TOTALLY rock our world); Natalia Vodianova (thank you for all of the time and kindness you gave us); Ben Haack (aways a pleasure, and thank you for sharing such deeply moving and motivational thoughts); Vanja Grbic (you legend, we would love it if you came to visit us soon!); Dr Commander Katikay Saini (you are so dear to our hearts); Oliver Sodeik (We hope to partner in the future); Charly Klassen (Always fantastic to see you, we’re looking forwards to some great developments together with ESPN!); Radha Balani – what an incredible time, thank you to you and all of your team at Beyond Sport who were so fantastic to work with, Cara and Ian miss you already!

Will and Jemima Browning, our delegate Youth Leaders also did Special Olympics GB so proud with their incredible participation in the various workshops and sessions; even receiving personal praise at the end of the event from Special Olympics Europe Eurasia staff for their contributions and development. It was so clear for all to see how wonderful this event was but on a personal level for us in GB, being there with Will and seeing him making so many great new developments, friends, and achievements was so incredibly special. He was that impressive that he was awarded the captain’s armband for the best male participant in the Unified Football afternoon, which even featured involvement from Brazilian football legend and Special Olympics Ambassador, Cafu!

 “I loved making the poster all about our new project. It was fun to share my ideas and feelings. I am excited to start telling people all about it. I loved it in Baku, I felt important!” – Will Browning (Athlete)

 “I loved the atmosphere of inclusion for all. The word inspiring is used a lot, but it was truly inspiring meeting the other young people from across the globe, who all share the common dream of an inclusive generation. It really reinforced the idea that Special Olympics is a global movement and one day inclusion will be reached by us.” – Jemima Browning (Unified Partner, Volunteer & Sibling)

“I always knew Jemima and Will were doing great things but had little concept of the wider picture and the huge community they are part of, all working together to change/unify the world. Jemima is so driven and ready to take on any challenge to change perceptions and tackle inequalities. I am frequently left in awe of her. To see Will’s growing self-esteem, his desire to have his say and the fact he now can, makes me very emotional, from a parent of a person with intellectual disability’s point of view, I have never felt so empowered and valued!” – Sam Browning (Parent)

When Cara was speaking with Cafu, he told her that it was such an honour and excitement for him to be part of this wonderful organisation.

“Our wish is that all children have the same chance in life, it is our main task” – Cafu.

We welcomed him and his son to the Special Olympics family, and they both were so incredibly overwhelmed with the dedication, passion, and possibility to achieve so much for all Special Olympics athletes and families. We thank Cafu enormously for his commitment and passion for the movement - we know with you and with inclusion, we WILL change the world. Obrigado, Cafu, para sua paixão e amor pelo movimento, é tão apreciada! Com você e com inclusão, nós podemos mudar o mundo!

We are so looking forwards to implementing a fantastic new plan for Athlete and Youth Leadership across Special Olympics Great Britain, and we hope you will all join in with us on this mission! #ChooseToInclude it is definitely the future!

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