Made in God’s image: celebrating World Down Syndrome Day
Mothers in Gulu, Uganda gathered together on 21 March 2019 to celebrate their children and tell their stories. Stories of raising children made in God’s image. Stories of raising children with Down Syndrome.
It was a party with a purpose. Eight mothers arrived at St. Philip’s Health Centre, Gulu, and stepped into a room strung with blue and yellow bunting, photos of their children displayed on each wall. A beautiful piped cake waited on the table. As the children began to mingle and play, and guests arrived, a ribbon was handed to each person. Its colours matched the bunting on the walls: blue and yellow for World Down Syndrome Day.
Party-goers wore blue and yellow ribbons to raise awareness of World Down Syndrome Day.
Finding themselves part of a worldwide celebration came as a surprise to mothers like Alice, Lucy and Everlyn. After all – they had been so used to handling everything on their own. Before they joined a support group led by BMS World Mission worker Lois Ovenden, each of these mothers had felt adrift – left to care for their child’s particular needs alone. Even medical professionals had struggled to identify these needs, let alone to explain them clearly to each mother. Rocked by rumours, misinformation and worry as their children grew, it was testament to the strength of each woman that they’d made it to the celebration thrown by the group. They had come because of their conviction that there was so much to celebrate.
Alice holds out her hands to catch her five-year-old son, Innocent.
In many parts of Uganda, Down Syndrome isn’t widely understood. Doctors are reluctant to identify it, as diagnostic tests aren’t generally available. Medical professionals refusing life-saving treatment for babies with Down Syndrome is not uncommon. Many mothers have to fight for their children’s safety and well-being. It can be a lonely calling.
Some parents are told their children will never be able to read, write or have a job.
Videos of the mothers telling their stories played around the room, alongside videos of parents from across the world. Speech and language therapist Isaac Ojok invited Vision TV and radio station Mega FM to the event, and members of a local church arrived too. It was a courageous choice for the mothers, to celebrate something with family and friends that they had been told to keep hidden. And the presence of local media gave them confidence that their stories were something they could share with the world.
Mothers of children with Down Syndrome came together for the first time in the BMS-led support group.
The party on 21 March was a special day, but it was just one day in BMS worker Lois Ovenden’s ongoing-work, serving as a speech and language therapist and running the support group in Gulu. The mothers at the party also returned home to busy weeks, looking after their children as they juggle work, home and family life. But each time the support group meets, the mothers grow in confidence. They tackle misconceptions about their children and encourage each other. And they feel part of a bigger story – one that your support has connected them to. One being told all over the globe for World Down Syndrome Day.
Don’t miss out on hearing more from these amazing mothers when we catch up with them for World Down Syndrome month in October. Sign up to the BMS' flagship magazine Engage today!
This story was originally published on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission