The Belize Special Olympics Team brought back silver medals from the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, California. The team only participated in Bocce matches but played against big teams such as Italy and Austria. At the end, the 9 months of training paid off for the team and they earned silver medals in both the single and team category. Today we were part of the greeting party for the team at the PGIA and they told us how rewarding this experience was for them.

Courtney Weatherbune reporting
A marching band, large picture banners, homemade posters and bouquets of welcome home balloons were all brought out at the Philip Godson International Airport this morning.

The spectacle was set up for these kids - the Belize Special Olympics team. They emerged only to be greeted with loud cheers and with the warm and eager embrace of family members.

It was an emotional moment for the team to be reunited with their families but it was also invigorating to return with those silver medals dangling from their necks.

Courtney Weatherbune
"Tell us about the overall experience and of course evaluate, as the coach, their performance."

Katie Kerr, Coach
"The overall experience was very nice. We didn't expect to play against Italy which is the hometown of Bocce, but the girls did good. We only lost to them by one point. To every game we played against them, only one point. So they played their best and they all did a good job for Belize. Belize did a good job and it's very important for us. We didn't realize that so many Belizeans were depending on us, not only here in Belize but also in LA. So when we arrived there, we were so surprised when we met Belizeans who said 'Congrats, we're so proud of you guys', every minute. So we were very excited and very overjoyed."

Ilda Romero, 12 years old
"It felt good because I was representing my country and it is better than not being here. You miss it, but you're showing the whole world that you are from here."

Jasmine Flores, 17 years old
"It was good, but since it's very hot."

Courtney Weatherbune
"So how did you inspire or get your team together to get a silver medal?"

Jasmine Flores, 17 years old
"I worked hard, practiced every day, and enjoyed myself."

Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children
"Special Olympics is an organization that dedicates itself to the activity of sporting. And it gets children with intellectual disabilities to participate in these sporting events and in different categories. It can be tennis, swimming, weightlifting, all different types of sports. And so for thee athletes to practice year round and to go and to participate in the competition like this on a world's stage, it's very important for our children with disabilities."

Over 160 countries participated in the world games. The team will now prepare for a regional competition in Belize in November. Now while it is important to incorporate kids with special needs in sporting events such as these - what about their academic and career opportunities? Are they available? The Minister of Education Patrick Faber told us today at the airport that they are.

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"I want to use the opportunity as well to encourage the Belizean citizenry at large to encourage our citizens with special needs, because they are capable of doing a whole lot if we give them a chance. We recently hired a young man in my office on North Front St. who is dum and he is a wonderful addition to our staff. Because of him my staff in that office is learning sign language of course and he's a wonderful addition. he brightens our office and we're very proud to have him on board and I encourage more Belizean workplaces to encourage our students, our young people, our citizens in general with special needs to make them an integral part of our everyday lives because they are capable as I've said and they are capable of showing us a lot of things that we are not normally seeing."

Courtney Weatherbune
"Talk to us more about more about programs under the Ministry of Education that are geared towards the incorporating or encouraging kids with special needs not only in the school setting but as you said in the work setting."

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Well, a part from giving the general encouragement to our employers out there of course in the Ministry we try to do a whole lot in order to accommodate the special needs students. Our policy of course is inclusion. So, we try to train our teachers to recognize the special needs students, but try to keep them as much as possible in the regular classroom setting except where we find that it is distracting to other students and there we have of course across the country certain special needs classes that accommodate them. I think we have one in every district. We try our best to make sure that they get a fair shot at education, but it's well noted that after they finish formal schooling, quite often they don't get that chance to go and so we try to encourage, we to do as much as we can from our ministry from our NARCIE service area."

Channel 7