Kuwaiti Special Olympians Steer For D.C. On A High-Seas Challenge

People with disabilities are the largest minority in the world,” Palestinian comedian Maysoon Zayid declares in her recent TED talk. They are also one of the most underrepresented, as Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, knows all too well. This month, however, Kuwait launched a daring initiative that gives one group of the disabled a truly global role in representing their achievements.

Journey of Hope is a maritime mission that brings seven young envoys, all special Olympics champions with mental disabilities, to 22 ports in 19 countries, to raise awareness of the needs and potential of people with autism, Down Syndrome and other such disorders. Their voyage is uniting those with disabilities and their advocates in festive receptions all the way from the Gulf to Washington D.C., the final stop on their outbound journey and home of the Special Olympics.

The 210-day journey will take place on a boat just 88 feet long, and will include “many dangers,” admits board member Jassim Al-Rashid Al-Bader, “but you can’t compare them with the daily challenges faced by thousands of people with disabilities.” Indeed, for all involved, Journey of Hope is “a dream come true,” says Dr. Saif Al-Hajjari, also a board member and vice president of the Qatar Foundation—particularly, he adds, for the participants’ parents, who “worked four long years until the boat became a reality.

For more information – www.hopekw.org/en/

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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