Coming from a country ravaged by war, where basic needs such as water and electricity are scarce commodities, the recognition, let alone treatment, of persons with intellectual disabilities is all but nonexistent. Children with intellectual disabilities are often abandoned at ramshackle orphanages, where many are left in empty rooms without human contact or guidance.
Against these odds and through funds raised from A Very Special Christmas albums, Special Olympics Afghanistan was launched and Najila Agha’s life was forever changed. Najila’s father could not afford to take care of her, so she spent her days isolated in a room at a Kabul orphanage. During the Taliban regime, even the mention of having a female play on a sports team was punishable. Through Special Olympics, Najila became the first Afghani female athlete to compete in many years. Najila was one of five Special Olympics Afghanistan athletes who competed in the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, winning gold and silver medals in the 25m and 50m runs, respectively. Since her involvement in Special Olympics, she hopes to change the status quo of people with intellectual disabilities in Afghanistan.