Leading for Inclusion: Wadzanai

The following post was written by Wadzanai, a 2019 Global Youth Leadership Summit Participant from Zimbabwe. Wadzanai speaks about her experience being both a Lions Club International LEO and a Special Olympics Youth Leader. Check out her experience at the Summit, and how she plans to#innovateforinclusion in her community!

Being part of Special Olympics has been a life changing experience for me that has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities beyond irrational social prejudices. After being recruited during a youth activation program, I have never looked back. This year, my partner Malvin and I had the opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for the Global Youth Leadership Summit. This was an exciting week of participation, sharing and untold joy and through it all l learned that while intellectual disabilities may affect a persons’ life activities, itdoes not complete limit them.. For me, the Youth Summit proved that if we concentrate on our strengths as youth, we have the power to make a difference despite our ability levels.

My name is Wadzanai and I am a Psychology Student at the University of Zimbabwe. My involvement with Special Olympics came about from my passion to serve the community. I have been able to take on this passing as a Leo Lions Club member for to the past 7 years. The Leo Lions Club is a youth organization of Lions Clubs International. The word ‘’LEO’’ stands for Leadership, Experience, Opportunity. Leo Lions Clubs encourage youths to develop leadership qualities by participating in social service activities. It was my participation as a LEO that help to create an insatiable hunger in me to serve others. This urge led me to my first encounter with Special Olympics athletes at the Royal Harare Golf Club, where Special Olympics Zimbabwe was holding a golf tournament. I believe the very passion of serving comes from deep within me due to the connection I shared with athletes.

It is through the Youth Summit that I learned that as a Unified Youth Leader it is my duty to work with people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and not for them. I have learned that it is important to share the stage with people with ID and not to stand on the stage on their behalf. Most of all I have learned that despite one’s ability level, race, or background, we are all agents of change and the world is desperate for our new voices.

Wadzanai and Malvin with other Youth Leaders at the Opening Ceremonies at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

Meeting new friends from across the globe who shared the same vision of a Unified Generation, is why I wanted to be a part of the Youth Summit. It is from these new friends that I began to see inclusion from a different angle. Each Youth Leader had a unique story to share that came out through various project ideas. This helped me improve the quality and consistency of reaching out to individuals with intellectual disabilities and to peers at my University, and at my Leo Lions Club.

The Global Youth Summit gave me an opportunity to meet great people like Dr. Tim Shriver, Ray Lane and other honorable people from the United Arab Emirates. They were eager to listen to us as youth, and inspired us to be history makers. Malvin and I are grateful for the chance that we were given to be history makers. Eunice Kennedy Shriver once said, ’Never stop doing little things for others, sometimes those little things occupy the big part of their hearts’’. Likewise, I will not hesitate to continue doing the little things I do for my family in Special Olympics, for the community will be a better place.

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