The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will host several programs this year to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The first of those programs is a sports exchange that began today and includes 4 deaf students from Fa’atuatua Christian College in Samoa – Seigafo Mavaega, Rosita Simone, Emo Lapi, and Ionatana Leutele.
For the next two weeks or so, Seigafo, Rosita, Emo, and Ionatana and their coaches will participate in the Deaf Track and Field Games in Washington, D.C. as well as leadership training, sportsmanship development, and cultural activities in Washington and New York. I understand that they arrived in the States yesterday and that the program is off to a great start.
Invited by the American Embassy and the State Department’s SportsUnited office, the athletes are part of a group of 19 deaf youth (ages 13 to 18) from the Pacific region including Fiji, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Micronesia as well as Samoa. The program is designed to focus on athletic training and competition as well as personal development through sport.
Our Samoan athletes have been preparing and training hard for the trip with support from Senese Inclusive Education Support Services. Senese Director Donna Lene says, “This is an exciting and tremendous opportunity for our deaf Samoans to train abroad with other deaf youth. It will be an eye opening experience for them and a chance to meet new people and develop their social and sporting skills in a signing environment.”
Senese’s Deaf Services Coordinator Petaia I’amafana and Deaf Services Advisor Caroline Conlon are accompanying the athletes on the trip. A farewell ceremony to bless the participants was held at Senese Campus Vaitele on April 26. Thank you to Senese for partnering on the trip and to the Central Bank of Samoa, Ah Liki Wholesale, and AusAID for their support and assistance as well.
I have written before about the importance of supporting and promoting sports programs for people who happen to have disabilities. I’m delighted that our SportsUnited team has launched this exciting exchange program and that we have several fine athletes from Samoa participating.
To the athletes: Manuia le tou faigamalaga ma le tou alofaiva atu i fā’agatama. O tou māmā na.