The 21st day of March.
This day was picked by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011 to mark World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD).
The date was especially selected because of its symbolism to the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome (DS) and aims to raise awareness and exemplify the abilities of persons with Down syndrome while advocating equal rights for them.
To make it simple and yet powerful, people around the world celebrate WDSD by wearing brightly coloured, mismatched socks. Socks are chosen because the karyotype of DS chromosomes actually looks like mismatched socks!
To encourage everyone to have fun and wear odd socks to show support for the Down syndrome community, Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) or DSA will be launching two colourful designs by its beneficiaries June Lin Yi Zhen and Jayant Dayal Sujanani. The aim is to arouse curiosity, start conversations about Down syndrome, and remind people that differences can be beautiful too.
The colourful world of fish and parrots
Ms Lin’s design was inspired by fish. “Looking at the fish as it swims in the water keeps me calm. For me, fish symbolises strength, perseverance, and love. I wanted to show the movement of fish swimming in the water with their friends,” she says.
Ms Lin experiments with different mediums such as watercolours, acrylic and crayons for her art “to make my design special”. “Just like the fish, I would like to have complete freedom of movement in the water. It is just like at DSA where I get to learn with my friends. I hope to be as independent as I can,” she says.
“First, I would sketch the design with pencil. Then I selected blue for the water, green for the sea grass and red for the fish. My art teacher helped me choose the right paint brushes. While painting, I had to focus and did not talk to my friends during the art sessions. Usually, I am the talkative one,” she says, adding that she “truly enjoyed designing the socks because it’s a relaxing time from my busy work schedule”.
The other sock design is of parrots and was the creation of Mr Jayant, who also enjoys dabbling in all mediums. Passionate about art, he likes seeing colours on paper as they remind him of the sun which symbolises happy feelings for him. Hence, his art pieces are always filled with bright colours that reflect his happiness and positivity.
Mr Jayant’s charming and cheerful motif and his conscientious personality is evident in his clean and neat line works.
Creating awareness with beneficiaries’ creations
Mr Ando Yeo, Executive Director at DSA, says the association differentiates itself from other countries by “selling colourful socks specially designed by our beneficiaries for the occasion”.
“By purchasing a pair of DSA socks and participating in the “Rock Your Socks” celebration, you raise public awareness and create a global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion, and well-being of people with Down syndrome,” says Mr Yeo, adding that this is the third consecutive year DSA is featuring their beneficiaries’ artistic talents on socks.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also greatly impacted DSA’s operations and has forced the association to make adjustments.
“Like many Social Service Agencies (SSAs), DSA faced unprecedented challenges in sustaining our outreach and fundraising efforts. We had to abandon all of our physical outreach and fundraising events due to safe management measures. We had to find alternate platforms to raise awareness of the genetic condition and to secure the much-needed funds to minimise the disruption of our essential programs and services for our beneficiaries,” Mr Yeo says.
For example, the DSA Board took the unprecedented decision to launch a virtual talent show ‘Rock The Stage’ in July 2020 when the physical event could not take place due to safe management measures. “To our relief, the live-streamed show not only brought out the talents of our members to the general public, it also garnered a credible 4,300 viewership,” Mr Yeo says.
When the circuit breaker was lifted and safe management measures relaxed in the ensuing year, DSA managed to resume its outreach activities albeit in a hybrid format to minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19.
For the World Down Syndrome Day 2021, the ‘live’ event held at DSA premise at Bishan Junction 8 was co-hosted by its members Allan Cai, and Judith Teo. “Together with our online community, viewers were treated to a 1.5-hour live show featuring an array of pre-recorded performances, a trivia quiz and a montage of past events and activities to recollect over the past years. It was heartening to see so many of our supporters tuning in and engaging with us during the live show,” Mr Yeo says.
“The uncertain and difficult times certainly also brought along some valuable opportunities for us to reinvent ourselves and how we engage all our stakeholders and for that we are indebted to members of the public, our members, volunteers, donors and supporters for their continued support and encouragement,” he adds.
This year, Mr Yeo says that it will take place on 19 March at DSA Centre at Junction 8. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the event will continue to be in a hybrid format for the second year running.
Its theme centres around the question “What does #Inclusion means?”, emphasising the importance of the collective effort from the community to advocate for full inclusion in society for people with Down syndrome and for everyone.
Attending the hybrid celebration this year will be Mr Masagos Zulkifli, the Minister for Social and Family Development. He will also participate in a soap-making session with the beneficiaries.
Aside from delivering the welcome address at DSA’s WDSD celebration, Ms Lin will also be participating virtually in the 11th World Down Syndrome Conference held at the United Nations in Geneva on 21 March 2022. As a self-advocate, she will be sharing on the world stage what inclusion means to her, Mr Yeo says.
He adds that the DSA has rallied support from a myriad of organisations and school groups “to build a more inclusive society for all persons with Down syndrome”. “World Down Syndrome Day 2022 highlights the need for a greater awareness and inclusion of persons with Down syndrome, in all areas such as social integration, employment and education.”
You can purchase a pair of socks designed by the beneficiaries of DSA Singapore here.