Neha Naik, 27yrs, a Special Olympics International Global Messenger from Mumbai, India, shared the dais with the dignitaries from Lions Clubs International, SOI and welcomed all other esteemed guests to the historical moment of the launch of Mission Inclusion: Bharat. She thought this to be the best moment to share her own Inclusion through Special Olympics:
At first I was studying in a normal school but then I had to go to a special school as I was unable to cope with the studies. My parents were not happy and they were hiding it from everyone. Then I took part in Special Olympics and won many medals. It made them very happy. Special Olympics made me independent and confident. I felt very important
Neha has competed in the 100-meter dash and shot-put events. As an Athlete with Special Olympics, Neha had the opportunity to travel and compete in India and beyond, having participated at the SO World Summer Games 2011 in Greece, Athens and the SO World Winter Games 2013 in South Korea. Her abilities took her to the White House Washington, D.C. in July 2014 where she had the honor to meet the then President , Mr Barack Obama and Mrs Michelle Obama
Neha attended a dinner at the White House on 31 July ,2014, along with 11 Athletes from world over, hosted by the President and his wife to celebrate ‘Special Olympics and A Unified Generation’. The dinner featured inspiring moments with current leaders of the unified generation, including unified pairs.
On her return to India, Neha could hardly hold back her excitement as she recalled shaking hands with President Obama and getting a hug from his wife. “President Obama asked me my name and where in India have I come from”,said Neha.
“Special Olympics has helped me grow as an individual and has given me a sense of human dignity. Now it is my turn as an International Global Messenger to help Special Olympics grow, and I am spreading the message of Special Olympics to everyone I meet. I think the world can be Unified”
In the words of her Mother
I gave birth to a beautiful girl, who I named Neha. Although she was born normal, everything started after 4 years when she got a major attack of viral fever, cerebral malaria along with meningitis fits, with this she was hospitalized for 20 days, this took a heavy toll on her health, she couldn’t walk, talk, eat or drink. Although she was in a normal school, after this attack she couldn’t cope up with studies and had to leave school in the 5th Std. A physiologist confirmed that she will not be able to attend a normal school. She took admission in Punarvas Education School in 2002.After 4 years in Punarvas she was selected for Mumbai India 2006, Athlete leadership Program
In Special Olympics and her daily life, Neha is all about her friends! She absolutely loves making new friends and staying in contact with them, especially the friends she has made all around the world. Neha also loves to cook Indian and Chinese food, just like the food her mom makes.
“Special Olympics has made Neha more independent and confident. Now our family and friends encourage her and are proud of her. Her hobbies are cooking, listening music and certainly, making friends. She is very happy to work with the Young Athletes. She is doing her own work now and is traveling, banking, marketing, all by herself.” says her mother
Jaunita, her mentor, testifies overwhelmingly the transformation which has overcome Neha turning her into a confident and independent person.)Her selection as Special Olympics International Global messenger, took her to Morocco, Washington, Athens and Singapore. She has since assisted in conducting the Young Athletes programs, led Youth Activation Sessions and now even anchored a huge event as the Lions launch held in August 2017 attended by Ms Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics international. Outside sports Neha has also participated in dance, drama, drawing Competitions winning Trophies and medals. She is currently employed with a digital Company as a Junior Digital Marketing Executive which she joined about 6 months back