Prof Sharma’s association with SO Bharat goes back 14 years when she was introduced to the organization as a volunteer. She recalls having volunteered at a Basketball event. Her involvement across multiple programs carried her deeper into its essence while expanding focus on concepts gaining significance like, Unified Sports and the Young Athletes programs. Her experience prepared her to spearhead the Special Olympics program in the Amity University UP NOIDA. In early 2016 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at the University in the presence of representatives from the Special Olympics Headquarters, the Asia Pacific Regional office and the National office in India
With 9 PhDs to her credit and her experience with research across diverse dimensions of sports she was well equipped to lead Research for the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program supported by the IKEA Foundation in India
In the past one year Prof Sharma has traveled with her team across the country sharply focusing on the impact of the Young Athletes program. She has traveled through a series of involvement from leading a team of youth, guiding and sensitizing them along with scientific documentation of data and witnessing the program touching lives of a cross section of people involved with the program
Anecdotes coming from her experience take many others into an insightful journey. “The greatest motivation comes from the YA kit created for the purpose” She has seen the excitement it generates along with providing a tangible asset to the authorities to carry out the exercise with regularity.
As the program touches lives of persons participating in it, carrying out research has brought her in contact with overwhelming experiences too. While data finds its way in official documents, the real life tales imprint a deeper impact in her heart. The flashes keep coming back as she recalls a few encounters which run like a reel in her memory
The year 2018 brought her face-to-face with faces that she can recall anytime even though the names may not strike. One is of the rejection by family and friends, struggle and determination of a nurse in Kota, Rajasthan due to her only child born with Intellectual Disabilities. The birth of her child made her change her city of residence from Jaipur to Kota. She embraced remoteness to get her child into the special school that runs the program with a hope that this can make a difference. Her child has been through 20 weeks of the program as she lays trust in the effectiveness of the sessions.
Curious to understand the Young Athletes Program , Prof Sharma reminisces how a parent in Bangalore, Karnataka, came to meet her early morning at 6 only to learn how effective the program is and how can their child develop through it. What started as a ray of hope continues to be a part of their lives, now 6 months on.
Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh emerges as a bench mark in a structured processing of the program assigning one teacher to 7-8 children comprehensively. The teacher is responsible for their regular participation and with tracking progress of the children assigned to her. This delegation of role could be presented as a benchmark of procedure, sustainability and impact
As the research continues under the leadership of Prof Kalpana Sharma, the stories of impact unfold highlighting different aspects of the programs and that of the people. Her team is expanding with members who are getting oriented with the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program not only to record impact but also to open themselves to a change