CA4 – Europa
Nestled in the Caribbean, the Dutch island of Bonaire boasts of pristine landscapes, a most welcoming citizenry, a strong cultural heritage – and much more. Among the many accolades for Bonaire, perhaps one of the most exciting is their commitment to service and solidarity for those most on the margins. As part of a first-ever for the Special Olympics- Lions Clubs International Foundation Mission: Inclusion global partnership, the island of Bonaire served as host in early November for the inaugural Special Olympics Dutch Kingdom Games, a multi-sport inclusive event that brought together over 100 Special Olympics athletes with and without intellectual disabilities, showcasing their talents and abilities for the entire region.
Through the strong support of the national government of the Netherlands, and through the generous support and encouragement of the Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust, the Special Olympics Dutch Kingdom Games mobilized athletes from throughout the Dutch Caribbean, including the islands of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius and more. The Lions Clubs of Bonaire brought forth a remarkable volunteer effort, mobilizing dozens of volunteers to help provide capacity for the celebration of the Games, including support for health screenings, airport welcome teams, technical assistance, family support and more. In addition, the Lions Clubs of Bonaire served as a strong spokesperson for the global Mission: Inclusion partnership, underscoring the role that service plays in forging social inclusion worldwide.
The Dutch Kingdom Games were a great success, motivating Special Olympics Caribbean and the national government of the Netherlands alike to build upon the Games to bring increased inclusive services to individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout the region. The example set by Lions Clubs of Bonaire, together with Special Olympics Bonaire and the community, offers the world an opportunity to witness the transformative power of inclusive development when various stakeholders come together to empower all to give it their best- on the pitch, in the classroom, on the job, and in life.
“Special Olympics Caribbean is incredibly grateful to the Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust, to Lions Clubs International Foundation, and to the national government of the Netherlands for their steadfast commitment to our athletes,” said Mrs. Lorna Bell, Executive Director of Special Olympics Caribbean. “Through the ongoing support and collaboration with Lions Clubs, we have the chance to show that solidarity, sport and service can change the world. We saw that first-hand here in Bonaire and we are committed to strengthening our teamwork as part of the exciting road ahead.”
Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International Foundation and the Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust provide sustained support to inclusive development throughout the Caribbean, including inclusive sports, early childhood development, family health education, leadership development, youth empowerment and much more. Through the inaugural celebration of the Special Olympics Dutch Kingdom Games, Special Olympics looks forward to implementing more activities to bring the power of inclusion to life throughout the region.
“The Games were so exciting – and so too is the future direction of Special Olympics Bonaire in partnership with Lions Clubs International,” said Lion Kester Edwards, Lions Clubs International Foundation Melvin Jones Fellow and Global Athlete Leader for Special Olympics International. “Together in service, we look forward to creating more opportunities like the Dutch Kingdom Games to highlight the power of our partnership and our shared commitment to positive change for all.”