Our highlight Special Olympics event in Benin is a gathering of intellectually challenged athletes, their parents, Special Olympics coaches, administrators and 20 plus volunteers for a free healthy athletes medical screening followed by a Unified Football match.
The Minister of Sport arrives late (not unusual for dignitaries anywhere) but the screening can’t wait for him (and nor should it).
The doctors, nurses, volunteers, parents and athletes have limited time and all the athletes need to be screened. That is the priority. Athletes’ eyes are tested (Opening Eyes) and where necessary prescription glasses are ordered for them.
Athletes’ teeth are checked (Special Smiles), where necessary dental appointments are made and each athlete receives a tooth brush and a tube of toothpaste.
Athletes’ have their ability to listen checked (Healthy Hearing) and appointments made with specialists. Athletes are given a thorough medical examination (Med Fest) and provided with healthy, locally-produced food (avocados, apples, oranges and pineapples) to take home.
Special Olympics trains doctors, nurses, dentists and volunteers so that they can learn how to work with special needs people. After the screening, the Special Olympics community comes together on the field of the national football stadium — Stade de l’Amitié — for a game of Unified Football after which everyone signs The Ball.
In countries like Benin, where there are inadequate resources for the provision of public health-care, Special Olympics is offering free health-care to intellectually challenged athletes. Healthy Athletes is an important programme and we are honoured to be there.