2018, the Year of Zayed, was welcomed in with style at the Al Maryah New Year celebrations in Abu Dhabi, as patrons were encouraged to start 2018 with a pledge to help by registering to volunteer for the Special Olympics IX Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Games 2018 and the Abu Dhabi World Games 2019.
Alongside the spectacular fireworks and celebrations to welcome in the New Year, the Special Olympics World Games team were at Al Maryah Island to educate people about the upcoming Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 and Abu Dhabi World Games 2019.
The volunteer programme, which is supported by the Ministry of Community Development and Emirates Foundation, allows volunteers to play a major role in one the world’s biggest events to help transform the lives of thousands of individuals and families by launching a new era of inclusion, hope and understanding. Alongside the practical skills, volunteers will be making a difference by helping the athletes to compete, by interacting with them and seeing the courage and joy they bring to the playing field.
Mohamed Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi World Games Higher Committee, said, "We launched our volunteer programme in November and are always looking for new ways to engage with and educate people into volunteering. The New Year often brings resolutions and pledges to change or help others, and we hope by having this presence at Al Maryah, we have signed up even more volunteers for the Special Olympics Games. With 2018 being the ‘Year of Zayed’, a great and noble man who encouraged respect, determination and a sense a of belonging to the nation, this echoes the key foundations of the Special Olympics, and we’re hoping this too will lead more and more volunteers to sign up and get involved.
"We need over 3,000 volunteers and we’re confident that the values and generosity of the people of the UAE will help us reach that target. The volunteers will not only play an invaluable role in one of the world’s most inspiring events, but will also help transform the lives of athletes and their families."
The MENA Games will take place from 17th to 22nd March, 2018, and over 1,200 athletes of all abilities will descend upon Abu Dhabi to take part in the Games, which will be the first major sporting event ahead of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Athletes will take part in 16 different sports in seven venues across Abu Dhabi. Three thousand people will be needed to take part as volunteers during the MENA Games.
The MENA Games and World Games are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people with disabilities into everyday society. Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the most ‘unified’ games in history and promises to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.