MACHs @ Special Olympics: Let’s focus on what unites us and not on what brings us apart

specialolympics3Im Rahmen der Special Olympics ist eine Gruppe von deutschen MACHs aus dem aktuellen Jahrgang (FY17) zu den World Winter Games nach Österreich gefahren, um vor Ort Teilnehmer und Organisatoren tatkräftig zu unterstützen. Meine Kollegin Hannah, die für dieses soziale Projekt verantwortlich war, hat ihre Eindrücke in einem Beitrag für die globale MACH Community zusammengefasst (daher in englisch:) ) - denn die Special Olympics haben einen bleibenden Eindruck bei allen Supportern hinterlassen, aber lest am besten selbst...


Ein Gastbeitrag von Hannah Hinkelmann, MACH FY17: The time has come and the Olympic flame of the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 is extinct. When I came to Microsoft 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of such a project as my first responsibility! It was truly a unique experience to work so closely together with an international team on one of Microsoft’s global social initiatives.
The Special Olympics got me so passionate and involved! During the last 6 months, I grew tremendously professionally and personally. There are the 3 key learnings that I would like to share by telling you a short story about one day at the Special Olympics.

1. Always have a plan but be flexible enough to adjust!

For the event itself we had a group of MACH trainees - peers of myself - engaged to take a 3 hour bus drive from Munich to the Games location in Austria to cheer on our sponsored athlete Anton Grotz. The idea was to have a group of Microsoft youngsters supporting him and cheering on him during his hardest 100m final competition in snowshoeing. As such, 24 trainees got up early on a Sunday morning to head to Austria and give Anton a special moment. I was already in Austria awaiting the group.

However, at 11am we were informed that due to bad weather conditions ALL competitions for the afternoon were cancelled. The group was already on their way and set to arrive in 30 mins. So there I was, with only 30 minutes to rearrange the whole day schedule which I had perfectly planned out, weeks in advance. Luckily, there was still one competition in snowboarding that the group could see and cheer on. Additionally, the Special Olympics also helped to coordinate and connect our Microsoft Germany MACH’s with their international messenger athletes, really leveraging the talent and energy we had brought in to support the event.

2. Let’s focus on what unites us and not on what brings us apart.

specialolympics1In a meeting with the Special Olympics messenger athletes I had one of the most valuable experiences. An intellectually disabled athlete took the opportunity to play a game with our group of MACH trainees. We were all seated in a circle around him whilst he was standing in the middle of the circle and introduced himself. He then proposed that everybody should stand up from their chairs and take one step closer to him when he would say something that we like. So he started “I like playing football.” A lot of my fellow trainees got up and approached him in the middle of the circle with a step closer. He continued “I like listening to music”. Almost everybody in the room took one step closer.
The game continued like this until the circle around the athlete was very small, hardly here. He then said, “So you see, we all have so much in common, we like football, we like listening to music but still most of the times we think about what brings us apart: the fact that I have an intellectual disability and you don’t. But that is only one thing, see we have so much more in common. Let’s focus on what unites us and not on what brings us apart.” His words were so moving and he really got me thinking. I think his statement is universally applicable for many other situations where we define people for what makes them different from us and not looking at what we already have in common.
Finally, in retrospect, this was such an amazing experience for the MACH trainee group as well, that we wouldn’t have had with good weather and the original plan.

3. We can all learn from each other.

After the session with the messenger athletes I approached Anton. For him it was his big day but now due to bad weather he couldn’t compete in his favorite 100-meter race. I assumed that he would be very sad that the bad weather hindered him from showing his personal best. So I asked him: “Anton, how do you feel about this?” He replied, “Nobody can do anything about bad weather, if the competition is postponed to tomorrow I will race, if they won’t be postponed, I will not.” I was surprised about his answer especially seeing that the chances that the snowshoeing would be resumed was very low and so I ask him again, “But don’t you feeling sad about this? I mean if you cannot race, then all the training was for nothing, especially since you are so good at the 100m race?” He replied, “No, if the weather is better, I am happy to race but if it is not I won’t, but that is ok too. Nobody can do anything about the weather.” I had to admit that this moment I realised that Anton could really teach me a lot. He taught me to not worry about what you can’t control and stay calm!
In the end of the week, Anton won the silver medal on his 400m final competition which was resumed as the weather improved again. Although he didn’t get to compete in his favorite 100m race he still managed an outstanding performance.
After only 6 months at Microsoft, leading and orchestrating the Microsoft Germany Sponsorship of the Special Olympics really did make me realize, what I’m capable of. Made me realize that I need to be agile, adjust and welcome new experiences that I never expected. I also learned that we have so much more in common than what makes us different. And I learnt that despite adversity, we can all achieve an outstanding performance in life, in our passions and in our work.

Ein Beitrag von Hannah Hinkelmann, MACH FY17


Unsere Gruppe deutscher MACHs, die bei den Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 tatkräftig unterstützt hat

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