By: Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: In recognition of her selfless services to differently-abled persons, the government has honoured Ronak Lakhani with Sitara-e-Imtiaz, the fourth-highest decoration given to any civilian in the country based on one’s extraordinary achievement.
Since she is considered one of the pioneers when it comes to social causes, the news of honouring her with the prestigious award did not come as a surprise for her team at the Special Olympics Pakistan (SOP).
Lakhani has been a force behind the organisation that fiercely took the cause of helping the individuals with intellectual disability to become a part of the mainstream society and providing opportunities with preparing Pakistan’s team for Special Olympics World games in 1991 for the first time.
Although SOP became an organisation in 1989, but Lakhani’s close-friend and a colleague, Asma Hasan, said that the idea was with Lakhani since 1986.
Hasan also said that the characteristics that set Lakhani apart is her compassion and her humility while being a part of SOP.
“We are extremely proud of her, she is a force behind SOP, and this organisation will go to new heights with Lakhani being a chairperson now,” Hasan told The Express Tribune.
“Lakhani is very hard working and very down-to-earth, in fact she joined SOP as a volunteer 25 years ago, then she became the secretary and now the person we all look up to,” she said, adding, “It’s really her selflessness that sets her apart, and she deserves this [Sitara-e-Imtiaz] honour.”
SOP has regularly competed at the World Games since 1991.
Recently, the contingent competed at the Los Angeles World Games where they bagged 35 medals, while SOP also won hearts at the Athens World Games 2011 by securing 56 medals.
SOP’s mission, according to its website, is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.