Dikembe Mutombo with Special Olympics Nigeria
Special Olympics Uganda at the Opening Ceremonies
Special Olympics South Africa at the Opening Ceremonies
Special Olympics Kenya at the Opening Ceremonies

The 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games took place from the 29th January to the 5th February in Pyeongchang, Korea.

This year the Games brought together 3,300 athletes and coaches representing 112 countries and an additional 15,000 volunteers, families and fans. The Games featured 8 Olympic-type sports including Alpine Ski-ing, Cross-Country Ski-ing, Snow Boarding, Snow shoeing, Short Track Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Floor Hockey and a demonstration of the growing sport of Floor Ball. Aside from the high quality sports competitions, the Games included a Host Town program, a Law Enforcement Torch Run, a Global Youth Activation Summit, impressive Opening and Closing ceremonies and a Global Development Summit featuring more than 300 world leaders committed to supporting more inclusive and equitable policies and resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Africa was well represented by the attendance of South Africa, Uganda and Kenya who brought back gold in their divisions, and Nigeria, who finished fourth. This was Nigeria’s first year of competing in floor hockey.

South Africa also entered figure skating and figure skaters,Thulisile Xaba and Nishanie Naidoo made us proud by winning Gold and Silver in their respective divisions whilst Kenneth Mokabo and Simphiwe Nguma claimed fourth and fifth place.

Africa also participated at the Global Youth Summit with delegates, an athlete and a partner, attending from South Africa, Namibia and Kenya

The keynote address at the Global Development Summit was given by Her Excellency, the President of Malawi, Mrs Joyce Banda.

The success of Africa's participation in the Winter Games will hopefully inspire more African countries to prepare teams for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

Congratulations to all our athletes that participated in Korea.

See more pictures at the following link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/soi-photo-stream/sets/72157632693313942/


President Banda
President Banda addresses the Special Olympics Global Summit 
HE, Mrs Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi was invited, and agreed,  to give the Keynote Address at the Special Olympics Global Summit which was held during the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games. In her address she committed to hosting a meeting in Malawi to address issues of Intellectual Disabilities in the country. The President also made clear her intention to host a meeting of African Heads of State to discuss the issue of Intellectual Disability in the region.

Her delegation at the Summit included several government officials who will follow up and help implement her plans in developing policy and plans for people with ID in Malawi.
The attendance of President Banda and the commitment to Special Olympics in the country and the region also  enabled the development of strong relationships with UNICEF and the Catholic relief fund in Malawi.
The President ended her speech with a strong call to action.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a call to action - to Malawi, to Africa, to the world. I ask the global development community to join me on this journey to champion equality and equity for all. There can be neither more noble cause, nor a population more deserving. This is the future of inclusive development. Yes the challenges and problems are numerous but together we can make a huge difference in the lives of people with special needs; hence I wish to end my key note address with the following recommendations that all countries the world over need to seriously consider:

1. Development of global alliances and movement to promote the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. This movement should focus on making sure that the sector of people with intellectual disabilities receives the required focus as we draw up the post 2015 agenda. The movement should also persuade  countries to develop the relevant national policies and programs to support people with special needs.

2. Establishment of innovative resource mobilization strategies that should increase funding avenues for the Special Olympics Committee and other organizations working in this sector.

3. Advocate for the fulfillment of obligations that member states have made in the various commitments that are already signed for.

4. Provision of relevant infrastructure by both government and the private sector to support work in this sector.

5. Develop national capacities in the health, education and social sectors to have skilled personnel that should work in this sector and among other things support early identification of children with intellectual disabilities so that they can begin to receive the right therapies while young.

6. Increased representation of the sector of people from this sector in discussion of matters that involve them as the saying goes ‘ nothing for us without us’ .


SOA Leadership conference
Delegates at the Special Olympics Africa Region 2013 Leadership Conference

Denis Doolan working with delegates 
Athletes explaining volleyball rules to delegates

Under the leadership of the President and Managing Director of the Special Olympics Africa Region, Dr John Dow Jr, the region recently hosted their 10thsuccessful Regional Leadership Conference.

This year’s conference took place in March in South Africa and was attended by leaders from 19 African countries. With athletes also attending from a number of counties, the delegation totalled over 50, the largest to attend a Leadership Conference to date.

The conference covered a broad range of topics that aimed at providing critical skills and information to enable the Special Olympics African program leaders to better serve their athletes. The conference also focused on the Special Olympics 2011 – 2015 Strategic Plan to assist leaders to achieve their program goals for 2013.

ALP's delegates presenting at the conference

Delegates had the privilege of having some sessions led by Special Olympics International staff members. Denis Doolan, Vice President, Movement Leadership and Integration, Kathryn Clark, Director, Athlete Leadership Programs and Kester Edwards, Specialist, Sports Programs,  who all travelled to South Africa to offer their expertise.
They were joined by Maureen Rabbit from the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia region,These sessions were structured to be interactive and delegates were able to get input on specific questions. These sessions along with the rest of the agenda were valuable learning opportunities for the regional program leaders.

An Athlete Leadership Program (ALP's) regional training was included in the overall meeting and 16 athletes from acroos the region participated. Parallel sessions were run for the athletes on topics that were specifically pertinent to them. One of these sessions saw the formation of the first ever Athlete Advisory Committee in the Africa region and the election of office bearers for the committee. Athletes presented a session on their discussions to the broader delegation.

The Africa Leadership Council also had a chance to convene the day before the start of the conference. 

A number of team building activities took place during the conference and these resulted in a lot great interaction and networking amongst the delegates. The team building included a volleyball competition which was a means to introduce program leaders to a new sport which they will hopefully begin in their programs.

Delegates left the conference feeling the African spirit of Ubuntu and an integral part of the Special Olympics family.

Special Olympics athletes in an ALP's session

Special Olympics Ghana Board members and Special Olympics Africa region staff

Special Olympics Ghana recently established their Founding Committee and lost no time in setting up training for their new board.
On the 2nd of March 2013, a board training meeting was held at Holiday Inn in Ghana, with the Chairperson, Secretary General, Treasurer, family members, an intellectual disability specialist, a healthy athlete representative, an athlete, staff and a facilitator present. The meeting agenda covered all aspects (history, mission, initiative etc.) of the Special Olympics movement. The training was later joined by the National Coordinator of Inclusion to discuss the LEV collaboration. He shared a checklist of the board that needs to be followed and to help complete registration and begin functioning. On the top of the checklist is to hire a Executive Director and to identify coaches for recruitment and training.
The Founding Committee is made up of vibrant volunteers with influence in the local community of Accra making them effective members for Special Olympics Ghana. 
Soon after the board training members of the Founding Committee were able to attend the Special Olympics Africa Region Leadership Conference which offered more valuable training.
The Special Olympics Ghana Founding Committee has received their recognition letter and in the next few months the Special Olympics Africa region staff will work very closely with the committee to help the Program reach accreditation status by the end of 2013.

A big thank you goes out to Dr Gordon Donnir, an Intellectual Disability Specialist, who has offered office space to Special Olympics Ghana.                                                                                                       

                Special Olympics Zimbabwe Board members at the Africa Regional Leadership meeting

Special Olympics Zimbabwe has also attained Founding Committee status and members of the new board were also able to attend the Regional Leadership Conference where they received valuable training on many aspects of Special Olympics.

A board training and advanced coaches training will take place shortly to start capacity building.

Special Olympics Zimbabwe have also been  earmarked them for a Mattel Young Athletes Program grant which will assist the program in kick starting the recruitment of young athletes, family members and coaches.

Welcome to the Special Olympics Family and we look forward to the start of  outstanding programs in Ghana and Zimbabwe! 


The Special Olympics Australia "Mountain Challenge Team" visited Tanzania recently determined to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

On 7th of March 2013 the team met the challenge and reached the peak of the majestic Mountain in East Africa. Along the way they raised much-needed funds to allow athletes with an intellectual disability to participate in sport.
The team took on the challenge in support of Special Olympics Australia with the aim to raise $100,000 to provide sports programs for 1,000 athletes aged 7-12. They are just short of their target. When they returned exhausted and exhilarated it was evident enough that they had met the challenge.

The team made time to visit Special Olympics Tanzania to spend time with the inspiring athletes. They played games and handed out Soey the Joey toys to the young stars. They were welcomed by Special Olympics Tanzania who had recently had the one of their athletes, Herith Sulieman, reach the top of Kilimanjaro. 

On the 8 March 2013 Joe, the team leader sent a message from the mountain: 'What a fantastic effort from all of the team. Setting off at midnight we climbed towards the stars and it was no small feat! Everyone watched a spectacular sunrise from the crater rim! There were tears of joy, hugs, high fives, photos and utter disbelief at what an amazing thing we had just accomplished. Knowing each step was for such a worthwhile cause spurred us on! Standing on top of Mt Kilimanjaro, 5895m, the rooftop of Africa, congratulations team you truly are an inspiration! I feel so honored to have shared this journey with you all.'

Well done Special Olympics Australia! It was a pleasure to host you at SO Tanzania and we hope to see you back in Africa soon.


On the 14th January, the Stadium Leopold Senghor hosted the first Special Olympics Senegal Unified® Sports day in honour of Aminata Mbaye, the founder of Special Olympics Senegal, who passed away in 1998.

The event brought together a large number of athletes with and without Intellectual Disabilities (ID) from centres and schools in Dakar and Mbour.  The athletes gathered together in the spirit of Special Olympics and to overcome disabilities through Sport.

 For the first event, the organizers took up the challenge of mobilizing over 320 participants, including 3 Unified® teams who participated in the basketball tournament. In addition to basketball the athletes participated in football and athletics. A Young Athletics Program (YAP) was included in the day.  On the day the stadium resounded with the sounds of competition but the motto of the event was participation and ability not disability.

 At the conclusion of this successful event, the current Chairperson, Assane Fall, declared that the event would take place annually and that they would sweep the entire Senegal to reach new athletes

To reach their goals, SO Senegal can count on the support of Lamine Diack, IAAF President who was at the stadium to attend the event.   Mr Diack has been involved with SO Senegal since its inception and said "This initiative came at the right time to prove that sport can overcome disabilities."

 Assane Fall proudly announced that SO Senegal has been "commended for the work we have done over the last three years" by Special Olympics International and he is confident that SO Senegal would soon reach their goal of recruiting 1000 athletes.                                                                                                                                      




Patrick Ndung'u Mugure is the first born in a family of two, him and his sister.Their mother was Intellectually Disabled and passed away when they were young leaving them in the care of their elderly grandmother.

Their grandmother is single and vends charcoal for living; for long time she has depended on well wishers to help support her grandchildren. Patrick started primary school at the age of 6 years and by the time he was in Grade 2 he was experiencing a lot of difficulties in reading and writing, coping with class work became an uphill battle for him. These difficulties coupled with the abuse and discrimination he received from his classmates and teachers, led to a life of rejection and eventually he started fighting back.

His grandmother enrolled him in a special school  and in 2004 he joined Special Olympics and started playing handball.

Before joining Special Olympics Patrick was always rebellious and fought a lot but through Special Olympics he slowly started to discover himself and his talent in sports. Through listening to the coaches and by emulating the other athletes his behavior started changing to the degree that he could make friends, sustain the friendship and embrace virtues that in the past he wasn't able to.

Patrick became a very good handball player representing his school at schools competitions, and SO Kenya in the World Summer Games in China and Greece. He has also been trained in ALPs and is one of the strong athlete leaders in the program.

In 2011 he started playing floor hockey , he quickly mastered the game and was chosen for the team that played in the 2013 Winter World Games in Korea. He has mastered the game to the point where he sometimes officiates during their training sessions and he assists the coach in training other athletes in the tactical moves of the game. While in Korea Patrick was invited by Special Olympics Chairman, Dr Tim Shriver, to join him at the SOI Open Board meeting to tell his story.

Three years ago his school started a boarding section and Patrick was employed to assist in taking care of other boys in the school, He is now a full time staff of that school.

The changes in Patrick were not witnessed on the field alone but in all other areas of life. He currently uses his meager income to pay school fees for his younger sister and is assisting his grandmother in taking care of the family.

He used the monetary government reward for his teams success at the World Games in Greece to buy a plasma television for his family. Through his involvement in Special Olympics Patrick is now able to contribute towards taking care of the needs of his family, his community and other SO Kenya athletes.

Well done Patrick, we are very proud of you ! 


  Jimmy preparing for his South African Football Association examinations with the assistance of Phillip Mphalela

Jimmy was born in Brakpan and raised by his grandmother Maggie Thomo in Tsakane. It was during his early years at Kombihlela Primary School that teachers discovered that Jimmy had a learning disability and transferred him to Matshediso School for Learners with Special Education Needs.

It was at home though, that Jimmy struggled the most to be accepted and for years he had to endure his younger sisters and brothers referring to him as “mad." Despite his unhappy home environment Jimmy persevered and through skills training and support at Matshediso School Jimmy was able to learn and later take on a meaningful role at the school teaching sewing to other students with an intellectual disability.

Jimmy was introduced to Special Olympics in the late 1990’s and immediately started competing in various sports including football, athletics  and field events, but it was floor hockey that really captured his attention. Jimmy not only progressed to become a senior and very skillful player, but after attending a 2 day course in officiating, he is now one of Special Olympics South Africa’s most senior and experienced officials.

Typically of Jimmy, having gained so much knowledge of floor hockey, he is eager to pass on that knowledge and assists in the coaching of the learners at his former school, Matshediso School.

Jimmy began officiating at provincial and national events and such was his ability that he was soon recommended to officiate at the 2009 Special Olympics Winter World Games. From there Jimmy went on to officiate at the 2011 World Summer Games and most recently at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Korea.

Besides his obvious abilities on the sports field, Jimmy demonstrated strong leadership capabilities and was offered at position in the Special Olympics South Africa (SOSA) offices as an office assistant. Jimmy excelled in this position and was soon involved with the planning of the programs sporting events and traveling the region to help implement these events. 
In 2010 the region office was on the lookout for an athlete to join the Africa region staff and Jimmy was the obvious candidate. Jimmy joined the Special Olympics Africa region staff in 2012. He quickly became a valuable asset and continues to assist SOSA with events in the region.

Not content to rest on his considerable achievements, Jimmy looked towards the next challenge, becoming a South African Football Association (SAFA) referee. Special Olympics South Africa worked with SAFA to modify its examinations to enable Jimmy and other athletes to take the exam verbally.
Jimmy worked hard on preparing for the exam and passed with an incredible 70% score. the best news for Jimmy was that this enabled him to be an official referee at the 2012 Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup, the first regional football event.

Jimmy is quick to acknowledge that Special Olympics helped him overcome his challenges at home as it was at Special Olympics games where he met other athletes like him, many of whom were also being labeled as “mad”.

“In Special Olympics everyone is special and that’s why I love it so much,” declares Jimmy. Special Olympics gave Jimmy the confidence to tackle his challenges head on and have no fear as he pursues his dream of becoming an official in more Special Olympics sporting codes.

" Special Olympics gave me an opportunity to attend workshops and training which gave me the self confidence to do the job

Congratulations Jimmy. you are an ongoing inspiration to all of us!


South Africa Special Olympics gold medallist Thomas Lugg set a new benchmark for Special Olympians world-wide when he made a historic debut in the 2013 Sanlam South African Amateur Championship at Country Club Johannesburg.

South Africa's number one Special Olympian golfer moved one step closer to his long-term goal to compete in the pro ranks when he lined up alongside the country’s top amateurs in the 36-hole Stroke Play Qualifier of the South African Golf Association’s flagship event on Sunday and Monday.

Lugg’s achievement was made more significant by the fact that he qualified for the championship on merit, having shot a 76 at Glenvista to claim one of 25 spots on offer to a 42-man field

Although the 23-year-old Zwartkops golfer failed to qualify for the match play stage, he tied for 119th on 16-over-par 160, bettering the scores of 19 players with rounds of 82 and 78.

“I’ve dream of playing in a real golf tournament against normal golfers and this was a dream come true for me,” he gushed.

“We should never feel limited, just because we are intellectually challenged. Golf is for everyone and this experience has made me even more determined to make it to the pro ranks one day.”
Lugg added that although the two rounds were tough, he still had a lot of fun.

Lugg is South Africa’s only Special Olympian to have represented the country and won gold three times. He took first place at the 2007 Special Olympic World Summer Games in Shanghai and again in 2011 in Athens. He also claimed golf at the 2009 Special Olympics Golf Tournament in Taipei.

Lugg is currently enrolled on a partial bursary at the Gary Player School for Champions, where he practices alongside the country’s number one amateur, Haydn Porteous,  who won the Stroke Play Qualifier on Monday.

Danny Baleson from the Gary Player Golf Experience at the World of Golf says that since Lugg enrolled in September, he has made great strides.

Baleson explained Lugg’s coaching programme is structured around his autistic tendencies.

"When something catches on with Tom, he is unstoppable. That’s why his dream of playing in the pro ranks is very probable.”

As well as representing South Africa at the next Special Olympics, Tom has a long term goal to become the first Special Olympics golfer to play in a professional tournament.

And he also wants to play against a certain professional golfer.

“I really want to play against Tiger Woods,” he said. “My motto is ‘Watch out Tiger, I am coming to get you’.”

Our money is on you Tommy!



Dear Opening Eyes Team 

We would like to extend a special thanks to you and Lions Club International for arranging the purchase of a brand new Retinomax Mobile Autorefractor for the Africa Region! 

Our previous Retinomax was extremely well travelled and could not be ‘revived’  because of your help we are able to maintain our screening schedule over the next few months.  We also appreciate your consistent support, always being available to answer questions and for always ensuring that we have all the necessary tools and training to deliver quality screenings.

Thank you from the Special Olympics Africa region athletes 

Contact Us

Please contact us if you have any questions:

Ancilla Smith
Communications, Marketing and Media Manager, Africa Region 

Landline:+27 11 706 8038

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