What happens when you say “I Can!”

by Mai Hal (Egypt)

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The story began when a teacher at my school in Port Said, Egypt, came to my class to talk to us about people with disabilities and Down syndrome. She told us about the international Best Buddies program, which aims to connect people to children with Down syndrome. She asked if any of us would like to participate in the program. I decided to participate. I was worried and excited at the same time, as it was the first time that I had ever participated in such a program. We organized a small party for some of the children. We played together and each of us students was paired with a special needs child. I was then chosen to go to camp where they taught us how to be leaders in our community.

I chose to participate in this program because it makes me extremely happy to help other people to smile, especially those who have special needs. Initially, when I saw a person in need, my heart really hurt me. I wished that it was me who had disabilities instead of them. My dream is to change the way that Egyptians think about people with special needs. Many families are too shy to say that their son or daughter has special needs and that is something that needs to change. I hope that soon, we can all treat everyone, regardless of their abilities, as normal people.

I never expected that participating in the program would change my life. Through Best Buddies, I was partnered up with a young girl with Down syndrome. We have gone to the theme park together several times and have a lot of fun. I call her almost every week to see how she is doing. She has participated in the Special Olympics and won many international prizes. Despite her disability, she always has a smile on her face.

Knowing my buddy has taught me many things. Life is full of challenges and it is up to you whether you accept them or crumble. Being disabled is never the end of the world. Instead, it is the start to reaching your goals and making your dreams come true. You should believe that your voice can reach the world. When you say, “I can,” you should believe that you really can.

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