Teresa Perales is a Paralympic gold medal winning swimmer and Telefónica Foundation Ambassador.
1. On 6 November 2020, you joined the Spanish launch of GPE’s 4th Financing Campaign, Raise Your Hand, with the goal of raising at least $5 billion to transform education systems in up to 90 countries and territories. What made you raise your hand for education?
I raise my hand for education and GPE because I believe that every child deserves a quality education, that schools must include children of every ability, and that every child should be able to reach his/her full potential.
My son, who is seven years-old, motivates everything that I do; and my wishes for him are no different than those of parents elsewhere. I wish him to be healthy, educated, happy and to be able to follow his dreams. Education is key for him to achieve all of this.
2. During your speech at the launch event, you stressed that schools help a child dream. How has education shaped your dreams and who you are today?
Without education, I would not be where I am now; it has broadened my horizons. Education was and continues to be the key that opens doors to opportunities otherwise hidden. I have been fortunate enough to have an education that has given me the motivation and confidence to dream. Without this, I wouldn’t have discovered much of my potential.
When I was 19 years old, my life changed dramatically, as I lost the mobility of both my legs. It was a challenging time in many ways. However, education provided me with a strong foundation that not only gave me the courage to continue to pursue my dreams, but it allowed me to co-author two books, "My Life on Wheels" and "The Strength of a Dream”, and share my experience with others.
3. GPE and Profuturo are cooperating closely to make the case for increased education financing and, as Profuturo ambassador, you are supporting the Raise Your Hand campaign. What do you expect from world leaders to end the global learning crisis?
I want world leaders to fully understand that investing in education is an investment in our children’s futures. Through education, children worldwide can hope and reach their dreams. We need to keep in mind that schools are not only where we acquire education, but they are a place of hope, safety, and normalcy.
For some children, a school means everything. It means eating a nutritious meal every day. It means getting a vaccine to protect against tuberculosis and other deadly diseases. And it means getting to learn despite being poor or a refugee or having a disability.
I call upon world leaders to particularly intensify their efforts to strengthen quality education for the most vulnerable boys and girls. When provided with education, I believe that a person with a disability can overcome any challenge. I whole-heartly support GPE’s Raise Your Hand campaign, which aims to raise at least $5 billion to allow 175 million children to learn, and I hope that Spain will take a leadership role in this global effort.
4. You are the most prominent Spanish Paralympian in history. What lessons have you learned throughout this journey?
The support from those I love and care about has meant and continues to mean a great deal to me. This has made my journey an incredible one.
I believe you can take part in as many things as you wish, especially with a supportive environment. Education plays a crucial role here. It is thanks to this environment that I can also train for the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. It’s vital to have a safety net of people that support you and that get the best out of you, regardless of who you are.
5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?
I was very happy at school, I had very good days there. What I remember the most, are the moments of complicity with my friends, but also with some teachers, specially one of them. She believed pretty much in me, from the beginning, and made me feel confident with my opinions and she encouraged and helped me to take some important decisions about my studies.