ANALYSIS: BENEDICT TEMBO
IT takes a person with genuine passion for service to people to leave the comfort zone and spend a day with other people.
This is exactly what the First Lady, Esther Lungu, did last Saturday when she left State House, the bastion of power and comfort, to join other well-meaning citizens and dignitaries during the 2016 Special Olympics and UNICEF Zambia â€˜Unified Sports Dayâ€™, whose theme was â€˜Inclusive sports, inclusive communities, empowerment for allâ€™, at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC).
For the First Lady, she was honoured to grace an event of such magnitude given that it had brought together children with or without disabilities.
Mrs Lungu saw joy, enthusiasm and determination among the children.
She regrets that children with special needs are discriminated against throughout the world and that they do not have access to education, health, clean water and sanitation, hence the need to support them in society.
During the event, the First Lady took part in the unified race with children with intellectual disabilities and later presented medals to those who participated in all the activities for their outstanding performances.
Mrs Lungu took part in the unified race with children with intellectual disabilities and later presented medals to those who participated in all the activities for their outstanding performances.
The First Ladyâ€™s presence has raised the value of raising engagement with parents to start bringing out their children to participate in such events.
The children demonstrated that disability does not mean that they could not do any sport activity.
Some were racing while crawling to compete and those who cannot sit or walk were throwing balls at targets while lying down.
With time, those who are unable to walk begin to walk and run because participating in sports is like physiotherapy.
Besides, all children want to interact and feel loved.
Some mothers or family members are being over-protective by hiding their disabled children, consequently doing more harm.
Parents and guardians with disabled children should do everything possible to get their children out of stress environments because their intellect is suppressed and their health affected.
The First Lady donated K100 each to all the 150 children, forking out K15,000 as a gesture of appreciation for bravery on the part of the parents and guardians who brought their children to celebrate their humanity.
OYDC communications officer Noah Silomba said the First Lady paid gratitude to the United Nations International Childrenâ€™s Emergence Fund (UNICEF) and Special Olympics for showing the world that children with special needs are well supported.
â€œIn addition, the First Lady said it is the responsibility of the government to formulate adequate policies that promote equity services to cater for everyone in the country regardless of their status in society,â€ Mr Silomba said.
UNICEF country representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim said he was equally happy to note that OYDC recognises children with disabilities to be among children without disabilities.
El-Bashir also said UNICEF remains committed to providing resources for children with disabilities in partnership with Government and non-governmental organisations to highlight the need for increased action, improved policies and mobilisation in support of children with intellectual disabilities and their families.
He thanked parents of children with disabilities who managed to bring them to the multi-sports facility to showcase their talents.
Special Olympic Zambia vice chairperson Clement Chileshe encouraged parents not to hide their children with special needs, stating that they deserve to be appreciated in society.
Chileshe has since appealed to other corporate partners to emulate UNICEF and consider supporting children with special needs.
He disclosed that his organisation currently has a total of 3,000 children with special needs, of which some reaped silver medals during international games.
And Violet Bwalya, who represented children, couldnâ€™t hold her joy to announce the support Special Olympics Zambia has been offering to them.
The children also underwent health checks, which included eye, ear, nose and mouth screenings.
Special Olympics is founded on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports.
Special Olympics also believes that through millions of individual acts of inclusion where people with and without intellectual disabilities are brought together, long-standing myths are dispelled, negative attitudes changed and new opportunities to embrace and celebrate people with intellectual disabilities are created.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
ANALYSIS: BENEDICT TEMBO