21st June 2023
To be seen and heard
One NGO is involving people of all ages to help bust myths and share the real lives of autistic people and their families, Chen Xue reports.
The first modern Olympic Games was held in Athens, Greece, in 1896.The first Paralympic Games took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960.What about the first Special Olympics?
"When our volunteers took to the streets to ask people about the Special Olympics, hardly anyone had heard of it," said Zheng Xingkui, 43, founder of Green House, an NGO based in Shanghai.
"And among the few who did know about it, they couldn't really say the difference between the Special Olympics and Paralympics. That was frustrating."
As an organization dedicated to providing support to autistic people and their families, Green House is one of the East Asia partners of the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which is currently taking place in Berlin, Germany, from June 17 to 25.
A group of 89 Chinese athletes with an average age of 21 — the youngest being 14 — are now in Berlin, competing in 11 disciplines, including badminton, basketball, gymnastics and swimming. This is the 10th time that China has taken part in the Special Olympics — an international sporting event for athletes with intellectual disabilities that was first held in Chicago, US, in 1968.
In 2007, Shanghai hosted the Special Olympics, making China the first Asian country to host the event. And yet still, few people in China even know about its existence.
This is why, ever since Green House became a partner organization of this year's Special Olympics, its volunteers started working hard to help promote the event, with the aforementioned street interview just one component of their campaign. Other activities also include a virtual torch-lighting relay, and training sessions with previous Chinese Special Olympics medalists.
In fact, Green House's volunteers have long been organizing different activities on a daily basis to raise public awareness of the lives of autistic people and their families.