A group of young dancers who flew to New York to address the United Nations summit – showcasing their vision of an inclusive society and championing human rights for all disabled children around the globe - say the whirlwind trip was a dream come true.
The inspirational youngsters, members of Flamingo Chicks, jetted across the pond for the once-in-a-lifetime trip on July 25 to address the United Nations Global Partnership Summit. The incredible visit was supported by law firm Irwin Mitchell, which sponsors the 1,200 child-strong initiative and works closely with the Community Interest Company.
Flamingo Chicks is an inclusive group dedicated to allowing children with disabilities and illness the opportunity to enjoy ballet classes alongside their friends. In their speech, delivered line-by-line by each child, the group told the assembly they had “come 3,500 miles to tell you grown-ups that disabled children deserve a voice.”
The youngsters went on to tell the summit that there are 150 million children with disabilities in our world, many of whom live in poverty. Frank, aged 11, told the audience that children with disabilities don’t always get what they need in war or natural disasters.
Speaking on his return home on 30th July, Frank said: “It was an honour to represent disabled kids from around the world and have the chance to tell the UN what will help make this world a better place.
“It made me feel really lucky. It was a good experience but I also felt moved by the experience that other disabled kids have. I hope the UN understands what we had to say and that all disabled children get the chance to live their lives in the way they deserve.”
38 per cent of parents of disabled children feel their child rarely or never has the opportunity to socialise and mix with children who aren’t disabled [source: Mumsnet and Scope].
Katherine Sparkes – Founder of Flamingo Chicks, said: “We are so grateful to Irwin Mitchell for their generous support for this incredible trip to New York. Our seven Flamingo Chicks Agents of Change really rose to the challenge and perfectly executed their speech, getting a standing ovation.
“They spoke confidently and clearly, getting across a really hard-hitting message on human rights for disabled children plus pioneering our vision for an inclusive society. With hundreds of delegates from 120 countries along with the United Nations departments represented, we feel sure our visit was impactful and the ripple effect has already been huge. So far, we’ve had requests to speak at a variety of global events and to deliver Flamingo Chicks training and workshops in countries from Peru to Haiti.”
The trip came as Irwin Mitchell marks the first anniversary of its “Don’t Quit, Do It” campaign, an initiative designed to help motivate and inspire disabled people to get involved in new activities, be active and independent.
As well as Flamingo Chicks, the firm sponsors several disability sports teams as part of its campaign; including the Middlesbrough Powerchair Football Club, North East Bulls Wheelchair Rugby Club, England Amputee Football Association and Portsmouth Amputee Football Club.
The group of seven children from the Bristol branch of Flamingo Chicks spoke under the headline Peace is Possible, with each child taking their turn to speak or sign. A video of the young dancers featuring the work of Flamingo Chicks’ outreach projects in Ghana and refugee camps in Greece was also shown to the assembly.
Eleri Davies, a specialist solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, helps children who have suffered from medical negligence to access support for their rehabilitation and recovery from their injuries. She said: “The fact that so many children are denied the opportunity to socialise with other kids who aren’t disabled is worrying in terms of ensuring they can live in an integrated society.
“Flamingo Chicks is breaking those boundaries, never more so than by attending an international platform for change like the UN to spread their message and educate people on the issues facing disabled children across the world.
“Flamingo Chicks is so much more than a ballet school. It is a growing movement of people wanting changes to be made in the way society treats disabled children. These children are vivacious, talented and inspiring. We are so very proud of what they did at the UN and what they continue to do.”