Rebecca Brown (UWCAC, America ’12-’14)
“You probably won’t see the next Olympic champion here today. What you will see is a bunch of people enjoying themselves, doing their best, and cheering each other on.”
August Period in Review : Social Justice Faculty
What do you get when you combine several teams of motivated athletes, a group of enthusiastic teenagers, and a brilliantly sunny mid-August day? A good time for everyone involved.
On Sunday, 11 August 2013, a group of about 40 volunteers from UWC Atlantic College set out by bus for Swindon.
We were told that we would be helping out with the Bob Cook Games, an Olympics for adults with learning challenges. I was a bit unsure about what to expect, but excited to see what the day had in store.
When we arrived at the Swindon County Ground Sports Complex, we were greeted by some of the event’s organisers. I asked one of them if he could tell us a bit about the history of the games, and he explained that they had been named after the late President of the Chippenham Lion’s Club, whose daughter had learning challenges. He also mentioned that they are funded by various Lion’s Clubs from the region, and that they take place annually on the second Sunday of August. He concluded by saying, “You probably won’t see the next Olympic champion here today. What you will see is a bunch of people enjoying themselves, doing their best, and cheering each other on.”
As soon as we set foot on the sports field, I could immediately sense an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere. There were athletes competing in a vast variety of events, from Sprinting and Javelin to Bowls and “Wellie Throwing,” as avid supporters cheered them on from the sidelines.
We were split into groups and given different tasks. Some people were assigned to help out with specific events, others were asked to provide their services in the results tent, and the rest of us were introduced to a team whom we were encouraged to spend the day with.
“I spent most of the day taking care of a non-verbal elderly woman,” said Keza, a 16-year-old student from Senegal and France. “I took her around to all the different events and cheered for her. She smiled constantly, and it made me feel really happy. Every time she saw me, she came and hugged me!”
Mile, a 17-year-old student from the Balkan country of Macedonia, was one of those designated to work in the results tent. “We would write the names on the medals, and when they called out the names and numbers of the athletes, they would come to collect their medals,” he explained. “I got to distribute them. It was so rewarding to see how happy they were!” (Though medals were awarded for success after each event, all athletes left with medals at the end of the games.)
Teams came to the games from all over Southern England and Wales, and many of them travelled for several hours to attend. I was placed with a team from Brecon, Wales, and spent most of the day talking with the athletes and the team coordinators. The sense of support and camaraderie on the team was quite strong, and I immediately felt very welcome.
Like me, some of the athletes were in their late teens. I spent a good portion of the day chatting with a young man with highly-functioning autism. He was extremely sociable, and introduced me to many of his friends on the team. He will be attending university to study Life Skills with some of them next year, and is eagerly anticipating it. He was also very interested in my background, and asked me many questions about my life at UWC Atlantic College and my home back in the United States.
At one point, a volunteer was passing out ice-cream sandwiches, and he ran off to get one for his friend who had hurt her ankle. He turned to me as he was handing it to her and said, “We’re not just friends on this team, we’re like family. We look out for each other, you see.” His friend nodded in agreement. I was so impressed. I thought to myself, if only everyone in the world had that sort of social intuition and sincerity!
On behalf of the students and staff of UWC Atlantic College, we would like to thank the Lions Club for hosting and organising this annual event that we can support.
-The United Words Team-