“No matter who you are or how you’re born, your arrival deserves to be celebrated” – Ashley Asti
World Down Syndrome Day Celebrations is an annual Rotaract District project organized to create awareness about Trisomy 21, to conduct an annual medical checkup and to celebrate a day specially dedicated to them with lots of fun activities. Our club has always been excited to be a part of that day; in the 1st year of our club being a part of the Health Camp and in the 2nd year organizing a Medical and a Physiotherapy workshop for parents and caretakers of children and adults with Trisomy 21. This year the project was planned to be conducted in a larger scale and in 3 areas; Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna and thus the project was renamed as Project ‘Yaluwa’ as it was not going to be limited to a single day. The responsibility of the Colombo phase was shared among 7 Rotaract Clubs along with the help and guidance from the District Council.
Wheels were set in motion by Rtr. Rivi Wijeratne and Rtr. Himantha Alahakoon, members from the District Council and the Rotaract Clubs of Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Management and Finance, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science of University of Colombo, ICBT, SLLIT and University of Sri J’pura. Covid-19 pandemic and the many obstacles it brought along with it could not hinder our spirits, as we went ahead planning several sessions which would benefit both children and adults with Trisomy 21 by helping them to engage in normal day to day social activities. Virtual meetings were endured by everyone as it was necessary due to the situation in the country, but physical meetups to plan and finalize each session are amongst the best memories made during the project.
Many Rotaractors were interested in helping make this project a success, but we had to have a proper idea beforehand on which sessions would be important, how they should be conducted, how to communicate, what activities should be conducted and get the questions in our heads clarified. So it was necessary to have a ‘Training session’ for the Rotaractors involved with the project, for them to carry on to do an amazing project. Our club along with the RAC of University if Sri J’pura volunteered to organize this training session and Rtr. Hiran Karunaratne, our Sergeant at Arms was in charge of the overall coordination of the session. Training session was conducted as a hybrid session (physical attendees as well as participants via Google Meet) on 16th of September 2020 at the ICBT campus from 5pm onwards. Rotaractors from all 7 clubs of the Yaluwa-Colombo phase as well as members from the District Council including DRR Rtr. Rotarion PP Kasun SIgera attended this session. It commenced with a warm welcome speech by our President Rtr. Thanuja, which was followed by an introduction to the Project by Rtr. Rivi. Rtr. Sandamini, our Secretary did an amazing presentation about Trisomy 21 which gave everyone a proper understanding about the condition before the training session proper commenced. We had two amazing resource personnel who joined us, Ms. Yashodha Hettiarachci and Mrs. Chathurangani Gurusinghe, both of them from the Department of Paediatrics of Faculty of Medicine, Colombo. They conducted two parallel sessions and all the participants got a proper understanding and clarified the questions they had. The day ended with handing over the token of Appreciations followed by the Vote of Thanks delivered by Rtr. Harumi from RAC University of Sri J’pura.
Given the worsening pandemic situation in the country, it became harder to conduct physical sessions at the children’s homes as we planned. Therefore it was discussed to conduct an online PR campaign to create awareness about this condition until the situation was favourable to conduct physical sessions. Thus began another wonderful episode of this project where posts were shared through the ‘Yaluwa’ Facebook page, bringing into the attention of the Society not only about this genetic condition, but also about how a little bit of an effort from our parts can make their lives so much better and brighter.
First session with the chidren
Two teams of members visited the Ash-shifaa orphanage in Wellampitiya and Mith Sevana home in Dehiwala on the 23rd of January 2021, as an alternative to the anticipated lineup of interactive sessions. The pandemic and how it has impacted on those with Trisomy 21 was addressed during these visits. The teams made donations per the request of the homes and also conducted fun and entertaining sessions in which both the children and adults took part with much enthusiasm.
The project is NOT OVER yet !!! There are more sessions we plan to conduct before this Rotaract year comes to an end, and the biggest of them will be the Final session, where all 3 phases of Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna will come together to hold a wonderful finale to this project. So stay tuned!