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Visit to AMDA Bangladesh (2): Support for children with Down syndrome

Publication date:2019-08-27
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami M.D., Ph.D. (President of AMDA)
 

At Down Syndrome Society of Bangladesh

(Continued from last article.)
My second purpose of visiting Dhaka was to observe a Down-syndrome-related project which AMDA Bangladesh has been eagerly promoting. Focusing on children with Down syndrome, the project aims to provide support and care to both the children and their parents alike. It has been close to 10 years since AMDA Bangladesh Director Mr. Sarder A. Razzak launched this initiative at his own house. The activity has grown into a national movement, followed by international accreditation in which the project was officially certified by a global organization specialized in this field.

In 2014, the project developed into Down Syndrome Society of Bangladesh after being officially registered under the Bangladeshi law. While the Society is actively organizing street campaigns to promote understanding toward the disability, it is also worth noting that the Society’s educational assistance has been increasingly strengthened ever since it exchanged a partnership agreement with the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Dhaka (headed by Prof. Hakim Arif).

In Okayama, there is a famous social welfare institution called Asahigawaso which has run a facility for mentally and physically-challenged children since 1957. Historically, it was falsely believed that children with such handicaps were born because of the wrongdoings their mothers had committed in their previous life. This stigma put an extra burden on women especially in the midst of immediate post-WWII period.

Asahigawaso fought against such prejudice by educating the public that severe mental/physical disabilities are purely of medical cause and that people should not be influenced by such superstitions or groundless beliefs. As Okayama has a regrettable past of running leprosy colonies where the patients were forcibly separated from society, a range of awareness campaigns which Asahikawaso organized helped relieve the mental anguish of mothers immensely.

Many years ago, I had watched a highly acclaimed Hollywood film “Ben Hur” which was about a protagonist whose leprosy was healed by the love of his family and Christ. The movie itself was touching and I have been impressed by the fact that a lot of modern-day medical institutions specialized in leprosy are managed by Christian organizations. Nonetheless, the plot appeared to be a little senseless, because it was far from the fact that leprosy is a viral disease.

During my stay in Bangladesh, I made two short presentations in front of mothers who have children with Down syndrome. I delivered my talk from a Buddhist perspective to the predominantly Muslim audience. “As a Buddhist, I can say two things. First, children with Down syndrome are born with high spirits who will never commit banditry, murder, rape or fraud. Second, they choose to be born to mothers who are warm-hearted enough to accept them and stand against the difficulties they have to bear. This simply means the mothers are the chosen ones who can rise to challenges,” I said.

In addition, I shared with them what I experienced at the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. “In front of the medical clinic which AMDA ran in the camp, I saw a girl with Down syndrome who was holding some sweets in her hands. She, then, gave the only remaining piece to another child who wanted it. I was deeply touched, because everyone was craving for snacks in the middle of supply shortages,” I explained. After my presentation, I saw the faces of mothers glow with confidence.

There are three kinds of joy in our life that are, namely, 1) self-realization, 2) self-expression, and 3) self-promotion:
1) While it is possible to achieve a certain level of self-realization with money or social status, there are people who, despite being highly motivated, have to give up chances for being underprivileged or disadvantaged. This, in a way, is one form of discrimination.
2) Self-expression is about expressing oneself through artistic activities such as music, dance, wearing costumes, poetry, haiku and so forth.
3) Self-promotion is about being kind to others and being appreciated.
 

Dance performance by the children

Vocational training


The children at Down Syndrome Society of Bangladesh have been taught the joy of self-expression through performing arts. It warms my heart whenever I see children dancing cheerfully. The Society is also conducting elementary vocational training for the children to experience the joy of self-realization. For a start, they are now packaging food items into smaller portions which were purchased in bulk.
 

    •  Bangladesh
    •  2019
    •  Mid-Long Term Project

 
 
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