Samoa celebrated World Down Syndrome Day at the Tuana’imato Soccer Fields yesterday.
The day is an opportunity to create awareness and celebrate the lives of people with an extra chromosome, typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and have mild to moderate intellectual disability.
Hosted by Senese Inclusive Education Support Services, families, friends, representatives of government ministries, the Loto Taumafai, Fiamalamalama, Special Olympics Samoa, Nuanua O Le Alofa and other schools attended the celebration.
The theme was: “My Voice, My Community, Speak up, Be heard.”
Vice-Chair for the Senese Board, Eli Kapu, knows what it is like to live with a child with down syndrome.
“You are all blessings. You are all examples for us normal people.”
Mr. Kapu told the parents that children living with down syndrome just want to be normal and that they just want to be like everyone else.
It is our duty to give them that opportunity.
Senese’s Director, Marie Bentin Toalepaialii, said the occasion is a special one for them.
“We celebrate this every year on the 21st of March but since we have had so much on our plate last week, we came to an agreement to celebrate this week.”
She said there are about 50 to 80 children with Down syndrome in Samoa.
“As you can see this morning, these were the children that were able to attend but there are other children in Savai’i and in other rural villages that were not able to make it.”
Asked what their goal is for people with down syndrome in Samoa, she said: “Our work is to give these children the same opportunity as we give to normal children to perform what they need.”
“One of Senese’s goals is to encourage parents to enroll their children in normal schools, in villages as well as in church schools.”
“The only challenge we are facing right now is not having enough teachers to look after these children but our main goal is for these children to have the same opportunities as other normal children.”
Mrs. Toalepaiali’i added that World Down Syndrome day would not have been possible without the support of their partners and event supporters such as the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, Ministry of Women and Social Development as well as Loto Taumafai and Fia Malamalama.