22 March 2019

Liberia: My Heart's Appeal Fetes Persons With Down's Syndrome, Other Disabilities

opinion

Children and youth living with Down's Syndrome sang at the event held at the SKD.

A number of children with special needs or disabilities, continue to receive a guarantee of hope, trust and confidence through My Heart's Appeal (MHA), a local non-profit organization that hosted them, telling the public of its commitment to hold the children in high esteem.

MHA on Friday, March 15, brought together nearly five hundred persons at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex (SKD), including more than one hundred children and adults living from Down's Syndrome for a day-long celebration in appreciation of the special place they, too, have in society.

Down's Syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition and it exists in all regions of the world. It simply results in variable effects on learning styles, physical characteristics.

Due to the world's neglect of this group of people, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2011 declared March 15 as World Down's Syndrome Day (DSD) in order to celebrate and encourage people living with this acute human developmental disability.

The program director of Down's Syndrome International (DSI), Arleen Proto, said there is no time better than the immediate time one has on hand to cater to a child or anyone suffering with Down syndrome.

"We are pleased with Mr. Burkie Major and his wife Mrs. Lovetie Major for their tireless effort in ensuring that no child with Down's Syndrome is left behind. We are with them as they try their utmost best to ensure that Liberian children with Down's Syndrome are taken care of," Mrs. Proto said.

She said it is her hope that MHA gets the needed support to look after the Down's Syndrome population of the country and, possibly, those within the West African region.

"My Heart's Appeal needs not less than US$91,000 to execute its plan of providing quality education for Down's syndrome students in Liberia but, challengingly, not much of the finances needed are contributed by and from Liberians. We hope people will create the love for their fellow human beings and sacrifice their resources to give them the best," the U.S. based DSI official added.

A cross-section of those who attended the World Down's Syndrome Day activities, including many of the children living with Down's Syndrome

MHA founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Mrs. Lovetie Major, said considering that the theme, "Leave no one behind", was carefully selected for her organization's 2019 observation of World Down's Syndrome Day, she is certain that God will provide the means in order for her organization to look after persons with Down's Syndrome in Liberia.

"Since 2013 we have been celebrating this day at this national sports stadium (Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex) and we are happy that our number has increased from 13 to at least 150 or more," Mrs. Major said.

She said her organization hosts the Down's Syndrome Day celebrations to the SKD because it provides the convenience of space for lots of its activities for the day without encountering any problem such as bullying from the public.

She said she has built a ten-classroom school that is in need of chairs and other learning materials in order to get the students educated beginning September 2019.

"The school building is located in Gaye Town, Old Road. I am a trained teacher but I cannot do it alone. We need people with loving and caring hearts, as well as expert education to help us take care of these children. They need us," she said.

Mrs. Major added that at most eight students will be placed in a classroom each, in order to ensure that there is proper education for all the Down's Syndrome students beginning next academic year, which is expected to begin in September.

She said MHA hopes to enroll at least seventy students each year, provided all the basic requirements, including well prepared staff (mainly volunteers) are found.

About government's support to MHA's efforts, the religious advisor to President George Weah, Rev. Emmanuel Nimely, said the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)'s mission is action action-based rather than empty promises.

"The President is a man with a heart of love and care for the suffering people of his land. He cares about people like these ones who are suffering from Down's Syndrome and I am of the hope that his government will give My Heart's Appeal a decisive support to move forward," Rev. Nimely said.

Also speaking, the president of the national union of organizations for the disable (NUOD), Madam Naomie Harris, said all too often in Liberia, people living with physical disabilities are ignored and considered nonentities but, with determined minds, the community of people with disabilities shall one day gain its full voice.

"A day will come when government and all others shall see us as a vital part of the forward march of this country," Harris said.

She thanked MHA for the courage in sustaining its programs and expressed hope and confidence that things will change for the better.

The Oriental Lodge of the Masonic Craft was represented by its head, Lavela Koboi Johnson and his delegates, including former Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh.

The Lodge gave to the MHA an undisclosed envelope containing some cash for the execution of its plans.

A parent of one of the Down's Syndrome children, Maybel Morris, commended MHA for their support and care given to all the children living with the condition.

The observance and celebration of the day also included a round-about walk and playing of games.

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