In 2012, Malawi was named one of the very first Special Olympics Healthy Communities, in recognition of its outstanding work with Healthy Athletes and the Program’s ability and willingness to do more. It has already begun to live up to this higher standard. In April, volunteer health care providers braved rainstorms to reach Special Olympics athletes in eight remote villages and provide health services. Some of the athletes had never visited a doctor before! Other innovative projects have included adoption of UNICEF hand-washing lessons, the creation of an athlete-led vegetable garden and a family health forum for caregivers.
The Special Olympics Youth Athletes program recently expanded its reach as well. Previously offered only in the central region of Malawi, volunteers this year have pushed out into the northern region and plan to offer events in the southern part of the country in the future. Currently, more than 400 young athletes and 500 family members participate.
Thanks to support from the Christmas Records Grants made possible because of funds raised through sales of the annual “A Very Special Christmas” albums, Special Olympics Malawi has also expanded its sports programming in the last couple of years – more than doubling the number of involved family members, tripling the number of local competitions, introducing a third sport (basketball), and training 24 athletes in the Athlete Leadership Program.