Lobna Moustafa, 20, is a real heroine who believed in life when everyone else doubted her capabilities. She is a female swimming champion from the Egyptian Special Olympics team with more than 20 Medals of Honor dangling from her wall of fame.
Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Although it is hard to communicate directly with Lobna, we met her at her home in Haram district where she lives with her family. The Unknown Soldier behind Lobna’s wonderful success is her mother Mrs Safeya who worked so hard until Lobna became a brilliant heroine. We talked to her about Lobna’s achievements and her role as a mother of a unique child.
“I was shocked when I learned that my daughter is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. It wasn’t easy to accept it at first; I didn’t get it at all and didn’t know what to do with her. She has a normal brother. I realized that Lobna has a right to live and has a right to deal with society. Earlier, I used to fight with everyone and asked myself why are people staring at her? Why are children afraid of her? There isn’t enough awareness, people should know that Special Needs are sociable and nice people, they are better than us in many other things. They can be champions! I told myself if my daughter won’t be able to do a certain thing, I’ll make her able to do another.” She tells.
“There isn’t enough awareness, people should know that Special Needs are sociable and nice people, they are better than us in many other things. They can be champions!”
Lobna started swimming at the age of 3 for medical reasons as her case needs lots of physical practices, but her mother never saw that Lobna will end as an athlete until she becomes a national and international champion. She travelled to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Greece, Syria and China! She also plays bowling but with minimum practice.
Special Olympics Egypt is the only sector in Egypt that helpsathletes of Special Needs travel and participate in championships. “The Egyptian Paralympic committee doesn’t include intellectual disabilities, only physical. They take care of them from A to Z including sports outfits and organizing camps for practice and exercises.” She explains. “I wish they become part of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. There are lots of champions out there like Lobna in various sports like horseback riding, tennis, skiing…etc. Special Olympics didn’t challenge disabilities, they have broken it completely!” she adds.
“Special Olympics didn’t challenge disabilities, they have broken it completely!”
Lobna isn’t very active in education as she is in sports. She excels better in subjects like math and computer than language, “she can slightly write but when you dictate her words. That’s why I wanted to clipper sports into her because I knew her case isn’t active for education. I wanted her to feel that she is able at doing something as she feels extreme happiness when she succeeds in something. When she wins a championship, she cries tears of happiness which makes everyone around her cry! It’s beautiful”, Safeya tells.
In the beginning, Lobna’s dad was afraid of her swimming trainings and wasn’t encouraging but when she excelled, joined the Olympics and started travelling he became amused and started focusing on her performance, “he makes her practice with normal kids to develop more. He also makes her help him at work as a secretary and courier and she is a trainee now at his office”, she tells, “I make her help me with domestic work at home so she can handle when I’m not around.”
Like any mother, Safeya dreams of a successful future for her daughter, “I hope she gets her right as a citizen employee and get her 10% right as a Special Needs employee in a company according to the new constitution. I hear about parents who send their kids with Special Needs to work in factories and the employer tells them you come take their salary at the end of each month just don’t send them here”, she tells, “I hope someone makes a film about Special Needs and talk about their abilities to show the world that they can be successful human beings. I also dream of a village designed for Special Needs with factories, entertainment venues, sport clubs, schools. I’m sure lots of business men can do that, it’ll be wonderful”, she says, “they can’t get their rights and now their parents work hard to get it for them but how long will parents live to get their kids’ rights? They should find governmental support.”
“I also dream of a village designed for Special Needs with factories, entertainment venues, sport clubs, schools. I’m sure lots of business men can do that, it’ll be wonderful.”
Lobna likes doing bamboo, carpets, handicrafts, antiques and glass art, “I make her try doing some crafts and when she likes something I make her proceed but if she doesn’t like it I don’t force her as Special Needs get frustrated and discouraged easily”, Safeya says. Lobna also likes TV and Sha’aby music, “she likes Oka W Ortega…Unfortunately”, Safeya laughs.
People with Special Needs don’t have a certain age to quit practicing sports but their abilities get weaker by time, “we once saw a 55 year old Egyptian in an international Special Needs championship! It’s amazing”, she comments.