May is World Down Syndrome Awareness month, and here in Oman there is a need for national awareness as a surprising one in 400 babies are born with the condition. The international average is one in a thousand live births. The prevalence of Down Syndrome in the Sultanate has received increasing publicity in recent years, with articles about successful entrepreneurs, horse riding outings, activity days and art competitions for youngsters living with Down’s Syndrome. But still much more is needed for students living outside the capital, for example, or providing work opportunities for DS adults.
Just before the start of Ramadhan last Friday evening, a community event was hosted at the American School in Ghala for children and their parents or carers. The school provided a Family Fun Day exclusively for the Down Syndrome Association of Oman, opening its doors free of charge to around a hundred people, including students, staff and ODSA members from 5 pm.
TAISM High School Community Service (CAS) students, staff and parents volunteered to run this event for the 9th year in a row, and even though some of the senior students had SATS exams the following day, they all supported what is their favourite Community Service activity of the year!
The athletics department helped to set up fun games, like bowling, basketball and an obstacle course (all indoors in the sports halls). There was an interactive music session with TAISM’s departing music teacher, Andrew Elbin, colouring, henna, face painting, a magic show and a couple of bashing sessions with Piñatas stuffed with sweets! The chair of ODSA is Zuweina al Barwany and worked in liaison with the Special Needs coordinator at the school, Keya Lahiri to facilitate this 9th successful event. Zuweina’s daughter, Ruiya, celebrated her success at the Special Olympics where she won a medal with the community gathered in the hall, while Jihad had won two medals for horse riding at the Special Equestrian event.
There were juice drinks and snacks, popcorn and cupcakes to fuel the energy levels, with burgers, pizzas, courtesy of Pizza Hut, and Candy Floss to take home. By 7 pm all the youngsters departed tired but happy and fulfilled, no doubt looking forward to next year’s extravaganza designed especially with them in mind.
Photo by Nicole Becx