As part of the cross cultural program to bring UAE schools and Special Olympics athletes closer together, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi welcomed 55 athletes from the Panama Special Olympics team on Sunday 10 March. Their visit to the school was part of their preparation for the forthcoming Abu Dhabi 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games that are taking place this week.
In the build up to their visit, Cranleigh pupils and staff from across the school put together a welcome video with wishes of good luck in Spanish, English and Arabic. The pupils, staff and parents took this upon themselves as they viewed it as a great opportunity to educate pupils about the Special Olympics and the value of diversity through sport. The athletes arrived at the school at 10 am where they were welcomed at the Senior School Entrance by the Principal and staff with Year 5 pupils performing an African drumming piece for the team as they entered. This was followed by an assembly in the auditorium led by the Head of the Prep School, Simon Kenworthy, and Cranleigh dancers, singers, drama students and musicians. The performance included a show by the Senior Wind Band, a welcome poem by a Drama scholar, a vocal, trumpet and clarinet performance and a variety of dance routines.
His Excellency Eduardo Fonseca, the Ambassador of Panama to the UAE, was also in attendance and spoke passionately about Panama and the similarities between his country and the UAE. He stated, “the visit made our athlete´s training efforts and travel feel special and appreciated, you have touched their lives in a unique way. They will go back with a perception of the UAE and Cranleigh as a generous, multicultural and forward looking place.” He added how impressed he was with the pupils, stating “the students were attentive, caring and very interested in the stories of our athletes. When they were having lunch together, I realized that language and culture were no barrier to having fun while embracing a spirit of tolerance and diversity.”
The team engaged with pupils in a Physical Education lesson led by Joanna Markham, Head of Physical Education, followed by a lunch with Year 11 pupils and Wayne Davis, Deputy Head of Pastoral. The feedback from pupils was very positive, with one Year 11 pupil stating, “It was inspiring to see how motivated and determined the athletes were. We really enjoyed learning about their country and then socialising with them.”
Michael Wilson, Principal at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, added, “It was lovely to welcome the Panamanian team to Cranleigh and spend some time getting to know them and their country. We are now all looking forward to supporting them at the games and hopefully celebrating their endeavours.”