Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed pledges $25 million to support Special Olympics education project

The investment will help to promote the inclusive spirit of the Games around the globe

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed pledged $25 million (Dh91.8m) to help fund the global expansion of an inclusive education project led by the Special Olympics movement.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces delivered the cash boost to enable the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools initiative to improve even more lives all over the world.

The initiative already has a footprint in 49 states in the US and supports 285,000 pupils in more than 7,600 schools internationally.

Its programmes promote a culture of acceptance for young people of all backgrounds, including those with intellectual disabilities, through sports activities, youth leadership and other initiatives.

The major investment will allow the organisation to operate in six more countries: Egypt, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Romania and Rwanda.

“The Special Olympics movement is being led by young leaders with and without intellectual disabilities who are emerging as the world’s greatest teachers of empathy, dignity, courage and inclusion,” said Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics.

“As we search for a more just and joyful future, we are trusting our hopes to young inclusive leaders who see beyond division and fear and show us how to heal and unite.

"I am deeply grateful that Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has made an extraordinary commitment to our athletes and their unified partners in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools.

"His vision and generosity will empower young people around the world to break down barriers caused by injustice and intolerance, end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and establish inclusive cultures where every human being is respected, valued and welcomed."

Young people with intellectual disabilities are among those most underserved by education systems globally, the Special Olympics organisation said.

"Of the 65 million primary school-age children who are out of school around the world, nearly half have disabilities," the Special Olympics said.

The UAE is working to ensure the success of last year's Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi has a profound and lasting legacy.

“The UAE and Special Olympics have a shared vision of a world without discrimination against people of determination,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the US.

“Hosting the World Games in Abu Dhabi last year reinforced our commitment to build a society where people of all cultures and abilities are welcomed and celebrated.

"The advancement of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools initiative will root the values of tolerance and inclusion in educational systems around the world.”