Parents concerned over silence from officials in charge of Special Olympic team

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Parents of the Antiguan and Barbudan athletes who travelled to Abu Dhabi to participate in the Special Olympics in March, continue to be concerned over the lack of communication by the organizers.

The four-member team was selected by the Special Olympics Committee and travelled to the United Arab Emirates for the Special Olympics World Games, which began on March 14.

The athletes, who excelled during the Olympics, obtained several medals in their respective races, and returned to Antigua and Barbuda on March 23rd.

However, OBSERVER media was informed that the parents felt that the committee had used the children without allowing them to be recognized for their hard work.

According to sources, several media houses were continually kept in the dark about the children’s departure to the event.

“When the children were to leave on March 6, to our surprise, there were nobody other than the parents, the children and the committee in attendance,” one source said.

An unnamed photographer arrived late to the airport after the group had boarded the plane, and thereafter asked the parents to send photos of the children. It was unclear as to whether the photographer was there on behalf of a media house, or the Ministry of Sports.

The parents added that they were originally told that the children were to return on March 27th; however, on March 20th a WhatsApp message, which was shown to an OBSERVER reporter was sent stating that they were returning earlier than expected — at 2:30 pm on March 23rd.

In addition to the clear lack of adequate notice of the children’s return, the Minister of Sports, Darryl Matthew, the Adele School for Special Children, where many of the athletes currently attend, and the media, had been continually to be kept in the dark about their return.

“After the games, we have been asking, ‘when are they [the children] coming back’. A text came in saying that they were returning March 20 at 2:30 but no other information was given. When we arrived at the airport on that day, not one soul was there to welcome the children for what they achieved,” they said.

When one of the parents asked why there were no cameras, or government officials at the airport to welcome the children, one of the organizers simply said that she was too tired at the time.

Later, a WhatsApp message was sent, stating that the organizers were glad that no one was there because one of the children’s parent was in Montserrat at the time.

“Parents, [I] am glad we did not have a big scene because Aaliyah (one of the Special Olympic athletes) would have felt left out as no one was there for her. When I follow my mind, it always leads me right,” one of the organizers said.

However, one source was extremely doubtful that had they been given proper notice of the children’s return before they had even departed Antigua and Barbuda, that the stated parent would have promptly returned to Antigua.

Additionally, the school was only informed about the children’s return until they had returned to school the following Monday.

“Last Saturday [March 30th], the Adele School held a party for the children because they were not even notified of when they were coming back,” they said.

Meanwhile, the organizers wished to meet with the parents one-on-one with a date, time and location to be given a week later; this message was sent after they had returned on March 23.

According to another WhatsApp voice note, the parents were told by one of the coaches for the athletes that the team was on break until Easter, but they were going to update the parents on the next event planned.

“So, we are taking a break for now, Harrigan will update you on something that will be upcoming soon, but we [the coaches] believe that we will resume practice after Easter,” according to the voice note issued March 24.

It is believed that Harrigan in the audio referred to was Joy-Ann Harrigan, the Special Education Officer within the Ministry of Education.

Up to the time of this reporting, the meeting with the parents to brief them on what transpired in Abu Dhabi has yet to occur.

Moreover, according to the WhatsApp group chat, March 24 remained the last day that any communication was sent to the parents by the organising committee.

This was the first time that Antigua and Barbuda had participated in the Special Olympics, where the athletes returned with four medals.

The delegation included 18-year-old, St. Ives Brown, 16-year-old Akelene Grigg, 16-year-old Aaliyah Rogers and 16-year-old Darius Charles.

For the males, St. Ives Brown achieved a gold medal in the 200 meter and a silver in the 100 meter race, while Darius Charles received silver in his 200 metre and 5th place in the 100 metre.

While for the females, Akelene Grigg returned with a bronze medal in the 200 metre race and earned 5th place in the 100 metre race, while Aaliyah Rogers earned fourth in the 200 metre and 7th place in the 100 metre race.

Our reporters had tried to contact Harrigan for her comments on the story nonetheless we were unsuccessful at the time.

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