Champions medalist during the Olympic Games, here are the achievements of Alice Félicité Doun, director of Special-olympics Côte d’Ivoire (SOCI). Beyond competitions, the association participates in the integration of people with mental disabilities through sport.
If days go by and do not look like for Alice Félicité Doun, they start with the same ritual: the morning prayer. Pious, this mother devotes her life to the integration of the disabled in Côte d’Ivoire and deems her action as a duty as a good Christian. Once the prayers are done, she heads to the office. In Abidjan, the facility is home to Special-Olympics Côte d’Ivoire (SOCI), an association that promotes the integration of people with mental disabilities through sport.
On the walls, posters, photos, jerseys, … Volunteers arrive at dawn, like Alice. « Our athletes made a strong impression at the World Special Olympics. The football players performed well that their ability was tested, to be sure that they were actually having a mental handicap. During the year, they trained with players from the national team. That is what we are fighting for: the integration of our athletes into teams of normal athletes. »
« It is one of our missions. Beyond sport, we care for the social integration of our children and their families »
It is eleven o’clock, the team heads to the stadium. After the administrative issue, sport activities begin. « Her little ones » train under the severe gaze of their coach. But Alice is never far away. « In Côte d’Ivoire, they are considered curses or wizards. While these are gifts from god! Over time, I realized that the lack of support for families, especially financially, created this rejection. It is not always the parents’ fault. When a mother, who already has five children to feed, cannot go to the farm because she must keep the sixth with Down syndrome, who will bring them food, what to eat? Even though there are specialized institutions to receive these children and some aids, in the villages, the families do not know it. This is one of our missions. Beyond sport, we care for the social integration of his children and their families ».
She spends three quarters of her days there. On the phone, Alice calls on public and private stakeholders to find support. The success of young athletes makes things easier. « I am going to give you an example. Some time ago we had an autist who could not bear being touched. Today, he plays judo! You realize progress! We also have disabled people who occupy positions of pastry chefs, photographers, artists, computer scientists. For people who have never been to school, it is beautiful! The important thing is that they become autonomous. They are not sub-men or sub-women, but gifted misunderstood, that is why they are treated as wizards. When we equally leave them at home. They have nothing to channel their energy and lose their faculties whereas they can be very developed. When they are dedicated to an activity, they excel in what they do. Sport is our leitmotif and the reason we fight because it is a great factor of integration and emancipation. »
No time for lunch, Alice goes back into the ring. She heads to a large local company that offered the jerseys worn by the players. « As a company, it is also our duty to support these children who are, like others, the future of this country, » says the communication manager. And we must say that Alice does not lack arguments to convince. Neither of energy. Hardly arrived, she has already left. Other appointments are waiting for her. And other challenges.
To date, SOCI supports six thousand children throughout the country, through twenty-six subdivisions. « Volunteer doctors including a psychiatrist work with us. One of our girls, with Down syndrome, turned 21 this year. Which is extremely rare in this type of person. But it is the proof that with a good assistance, means, and especially of the love, they can live longer! »
« This year, it will be seven years that I run this association. And I will pass the baton »
Each year, these athletes wear the colors of Côte d’Ivoire during the Olympic Games. « In 2018, it will be seven years that I run this association. And I will pass the baton. In a few months, someone else will take over from her. Alice will continue to support SOCI as a volunteer. As results, she proudly contributed to changing the public opinion on these children. « I now going to take care of myself a little bit. »
In the meantime, it is past 2000 GMT and Alice finally leaves the office. She goes home to take care of family. Tomorrow, another intense day awaits her.