Catholic Relief Services, the charity organization of the US bishops, is partnering with Special Olympics International to expand services for those with intellectual disabilities in developing countries and help them thrive.
A special event, held Wednesday at CRS’ world headquarters in Baltimore, marked the official beginning of the partnership.
The partnership builds on the strengths of each organization. CRS works in 91 countries providing solutions to address tough problems such as poverty, hunger, drought, disease and emergencies, reaching more than 100 million of the world’s poorest people each year. Special Olympics has grown to become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.
The chairman of Special Olympics, Timothy Shriver, noted how those with disabilities “are among the most marginalized, isolated and neglected populations in the world.”
“They and their families have not been adequately or proportionately represented in development strategies, interventions, funding or goals,” he said. “This partnership will help address that urgent need.”
The CEO and president of CRS, Carolyn Woo, also welcomed the partnership, saying it will help the aid agency to “strengthen health systems to diagnose and address the needs of children with intellectual disabilities.”
“Communities play a key role in building access and demand for services. We will work through our extensive network of partners to engage communities to fight stigma, advocate for services, and mobilize people with intellectual disabilities,” Woo said. “CRS is uniquely placed to help deliver services to people with intellectual disabilities.”
The partnership will focus on integrating routine screenings for intellectual disabilities into child health programs; teaching community health workers to identify and refer children for services; adopting inclusive approaches in CRS’ existing education and vocational training programs, and overcoming stigma with information that will empower individuals and groups to advocate for their own rights.
Special Olympics provides health services and health education to people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Since Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® began in 1997, it has completed more than 1.4 million free health screenings and provided follow-up care, such as fitting 2,000 hearing aids and supplying more than 90,000 prescription eyeglasses, to those in need.