A local athlete from a Claremont-based Oasis Association, a non-profit organisation, scooped two medals at the Special Olympics that took place in Abu Dhabi from Thursday 14 March to Thursday 21 March.
The 45-year-old intellectually disabled Jeffrey Julies from Belhar brought home a gold medal for standing long jump and a bronze medal for the 50m walk for men.
Though Julies could not be reached for a comment as he reportedly does not have a phone, he left a message during a workshop before the date of departure, stating his eagerness to give his best in the competition.
“I am happy and pleased to go represent the country. I just want to do my best. I don’t care about medals”
Beverley Damons, workshop manager at Oasis Association, said: “He was very nervous before he left but was so honoured to represent his country.”
The South African team comprises of 70 athletes who represented the country in football, futsal (five-a-side female soccer), table tennis, equestrian, bocce, open-water swimming, athletics and golf. A total of 21 coaches and seven support staff accompanied the team.
The Special Olympics as the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event and a global movement which focuses on the empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport.
She says Julies was able to access meaningful work at the Oasis Associations Protective Workshops, where people with intellectual disabilities are afforded the opportunity to participate in work activities within a protected and safe environment. He has been with Oasis for 27 years.
She says following one’s dreams often requires dedication, perseverance, and the overcoming of arduous obstacles and that Julies’ rise to national colours was not a facile journey.
Gail Davids, services manager at the Oasis Association, added that Julies and thousands like him, have the capacity to make meaningful contributions to society but are often not afforded the opportunity to do so. “People with intellectual disabilities are capable, but often societal stereotypes prevent them from doing so,” she said.
Oasis provides employment opportunities which are critical for them. The NPO also goes an extra mile to meet the holistic needs of these individuals through key programmes and projects including weekly education classes, life and work skills programmes, feeding schemes, diversion programmes, occupational units – for the training of basic motor skills, and social work services.
It was through one of these empowerment programmes offered at Oasis Association, that Julies was able to access the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics.
The Article first appeared in the Peoples Post