Webster-Roy’s message on World Down Syndrome Day 2019.
Leave No One Behind”, is the United Nations’ theme for this year’s “World Down Syndrome Day”, observed annually on the 21st of March. Approximately 3000 to 5000 children are born with Down Syndrome (DS) each year. It is incumbent upon world leaders, governments, educators, health professionals and all entrusted with the care and protection of children to ensure they are safe, loved, protected and given the opportunity to make positive contributions to society.
A study done in 2011 in the United States entitled ‘Self‐perceptions from people with Down Syndrome,’ emphasized that the underlying need by children with DS is ‘to be loved and valued.’ Some children indicated in the study “I am not any different from other people”; “Look at me. I can do all sorts of things you didn’t think I could”; “Don’t label us. People with Down Syndrome do a lot of things.” We have to value our children with DS by preparing them to follow their dreams and equipping them with the tools to lead fulfilling lives.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to fulfil our mandate of ‘Putting People First, Nurturing Our Greatest Asset’, as we work with ourstakeholders including the Down Syndrome Family Network (DSFN) of Trinidad and Tobago. I commend the DSFN for their strides in serving persons with DS to develop their greatest potential while providing support to their families and caregivers. In 2018, the Office of the Prime Minister began providing employment, training for staff and support for people with DS. We have set the wheels in motion for others to take action and follow. Through our support efforts, it is envisaged that, stigma, discrimination and inaccurate public perception associated with DS will be reduced.
Persons with DS can achieve an optimal quality of life through appropriate care, medical guidance, educational and community support. Therefore, as the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, it is our duty to secure a high standard of living for all persons with DS and all other vulnerable groups within society so that they are able to self-actualise and have better life outcomes.
Persons living with DS add significant value to the development of a country. Research has shown persons living with disabilities such as DS are highly productive as they bring unique skills and experiences to the table to produce high quality work. The ability to be independent while contributing through skilled work is a great boost in morale and confidence for those navigating their way in making their mark in this country and in this world. Thus, providing the necessary support services and opportunities for persons living with DS will redound to all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Each of us has an individual and collective part to play in enhancing and promoting a fair and equitable living experience for all members of society. Using knowledge as a tool to dispel ignorance, we must empower this nation with greater information on the efforts of the DSFN, The Consortium of Disabilities Organizations and other international partners to better understand the needs of our brothers and sisters living with DS. In learning to serve the community of persons with DS, we learn how to serve ourselves and strengthen our country’s productive capacity.
In commemorating World Down Syndrome Day 2019, the Government affirms its commitment for assuring that “no one will be left behind.” We encourage our citizens to reflect on World Down Syndrome Day 2019 and remember to wear your brightly coloured and/or mismatched socks in support of the #LotsOfSocks initiative, “Leave No One Behind”.