World Down’s Syndrome Day will be marked in the Cayman Islands for the first time this year.
Anne-Marie Gray, who works as a support aide at Lighthouse School, is organising the event on 21 March, which will include a symposium, a photography display and a video showing the personalities, achievements and capabilities of Cayman’s own Down’s Syndrome kids and adults.
Ms Gray was inspired by her older brother Sean, who has Down’s Syndrome, to help others become more aware and educated about the condition and to learn more about the lives of those who have it.
“There are common misconceptions that people with Down’s Syndrome have the same personality and capabilities and that’s just not true,” she said.
Sean, who as 27 is four years older than Ms Gray, was the subject of her art practice at the end of her degree in fine arts and her work on that project is being published this month in the Down’s Syndrome Association Journal.
“I just felt it wasn’t enough to just keep pursuing the art practice, I knew there was a campaign that needed to be involved in it. I wanted my photographs to be seen but I wanted more conversation, so I thought I’ll do a campaign… I wanted to do something big, a big event.
“I found out about World Down’s Syndrome Day, which has never been brought to the Cayman Islands. It’s now being recognised by the United Nation, so why not bring it here,” she said.
World Down’s Syndrome Day has been held each year for the past eight years on 21 March and the United Nations officially observed it last year for the first time.
The symposium in Cayman will include two speakers, including Elroy Bryan, a senior teacher at Lighthouse School and Special Olympics coach. The other speaker has not yet been confirmed, but Ms Gray has contacted Down’s Syndrome International to invite a speaker from that organisation to speak in Cayman.
The stars of the day will be some of the present and former students of Lighthouse School, including Special Olympian swimmer Kanza Bodden, who will be the advocate speaker, and others who will provide entertainment in the form of singing and dancing.
In the meantime, Ms Gray is working on creating a short film that will showcase the unique personalities of children with Down’s Syndrome in the Cayman Islands. “What I’ll do is document or highlight certain parts of their lives and their strengths,” she said.
She hopes to later make a full-length feature to show at the movie theatre and on television to reach an even wider audience and shatter some of the illusions and misconceptions people have Down’s Syndrome.
The photographs from her art project for her BA Hons degree will be on display on World Down’s Syndrome Day, as will be artwork by her brother Sean, who got into painting through art therapy Ms Gray had been doing with him.
“Sean started painting because I was trying to experiment with art therapy with him. He was a good candidate. He became an elective mute a few years ago after Hurricane Ivan. We were in the home when the house was destroyed. It affected him very much. That was probably his way of coping with the trauma.
“Since then, I don’t know if it’s because of the art therapy or various other things going on in his life now, but he’s actually started to speak again and his enunciation is almost perfect, which is amazing because, before, his enunciation was quite good, but compared to what it is now, it is quite developed,” she said.
As well as the symposium and art displays, the event will also include lots of fun activities, Ms Gray said, including face painting, arts and crafts, a clown, animal balloons and puppet theatre.
Ms Gray is inviting corporate sponsors to support World Down’s Syndrome Day and to help to raise awareness of the condition.
Anyone who would like to sponsor the event or find out more information about it can contact Ms Gray at [email protected]