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UK Committee learns from Special Olympics athlete

January 30, 2014

Special Olympics Athlete Urges People with Intellectual Disabilities to be Kept Top of Mind in African Aid: International Development Committee Inquiry into Disability & Development Hears First-hand of Stigma Facing an Isolated Population


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Special Olympics coach Greg Silvester training gymnast Sarah Whitehouse Photograph: Anita Maric/newsteam


DFID Support in Africa

London, UK:  Former Special Olympics athlete and now qualified mainstream gymnastics coach, Greg Silvester brought the struggle facing millions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Africa to the attention of the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) Committee Inquiry into Disability and Development in London today.  Up to 90% of children with intellectual disabilities in Africa do not go to school and are denied other vital services.

The Committee, chaired by newly appointed Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats The Right Honourable Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, was formed in late 2013 to reassert DFID’s commitment to people with disabilities in developing countries and to primarily assess the adequacy of DFID’s current policy commitments on disability and development. Counting on his own personal experience of living with Down syndrome and representing his country in several World Games, Greg Silvester told Committee members how critical Special Olympics programs are to empowering people with intellectual disabilities and helping them reach their great potential. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities while raising awareness about their talents and abilities.


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Athlete Richard Hammon with his coach Greg Silvester 

Social consequences of stigma

“It is truly an honour and privilege to share my story with key policy makers,” said Greg Silvester. “It is important to educate them about the real and significant social consequences that arise from the stigma around intellectual disabilities. I want to make sure that people with intellectual disabilities are top of mind when critical decisions are made about aid in Africa.”

In many cultures throughout Africa, stereotypes, entrenched stigma and misunderstanding about intellectual disabilities exists and the effects are devastating. Many people with disabilities experience severe social isolation and suffer from neglect, abuse and violence.

Inclusive development is critical for Africa as part of a post 2015 Millennium Development Goals framework, and the United Kingdom continues to serve as one of the most important development partners for African nations.  As part of a renewed disability and development approach – and one that focuses on rehabilitation and service provision – DFID stands to make one of the largest and most sustained impact of any foreign aid. More than 200 million people worldwide have an intellectual disability, making this the largest disability group worldwide.


About DFID
The International Development Committee monitors the policy, administration and spending of the Department for International Development (DFID), and its associated public bodies, and takes an interest in the policies and procedures of the multilateral agencies and non-government organisations to which DFID contributes. The Committee consists of eleven backbench Members of Parliament and is an investigative Committee rather than a legislative Committee. As such, it sets its own programme and chooses subjects for inquiries. For more information visit

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries worldwide, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and related programs. Special Olympics takes place daily, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and


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