Change is inevitable. So is the resistance to it. It is in our human nature that we feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings and with people similar to us, therefore we try to create a norm we call normal and we tend to stick to it. Actually that is fine… until the notion of normal becomes exclusive to all other variations. You see, “normal” has a tendency of creeping into our perceptions and making us think of others who are different as somehow lesser. In other words, it creates the ever so dangerous differentiation of “us and them”. You start seeing them as others. You start seeing people from a different perspective.
I started thinking about these 16 years ago. I even remember the exact day. The day my older son was born and we have been told that he has Down Syndrome. The first thought which came to my mind was whether he would be seen as less than the beautiful, wonderful baby he is. Would people look at him and see a different person, different than the rest of us?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Yes, he is different in his ways. But he is also exactly the same as all of us; he wants to love and be loved. He yearns for approval, he has hopes and dreams just like everybody else. He is just your ordinary teenager; he likes to hang out with friends, enjoys rock music, he goes to high school, he argues with his younger brother and cannot wait to grow up and start living by himself. He is a self-advocate like many other young men and women with Down Syndrome, but he is by no means an exception. That he is actually all
of these surprises people who have never met him before.
So, we thought, let’s try to get everybody to see Down Syndrome and what people with DS are capable. You might think; we? We are DOWN TURKIYE (www.downturkiye.com); a charity dedicated to establish educational and structural programmes which will empower individuals with Down Syndrome to reach semi- or full independent lives and to have meaningful lives contributing to their society, and strives to challenge the society’s perception of disability and disabled people and to provide a more positive direction.
Down Türkiye has started in 2009 and is the brainchild of three women, two of whom has a child with DS and a third who has a big heart. It grew so fast that we think it called us, rather than the other way round. We are part of Down Syndrome International and their primary contact for Turkey. I have been chosen by DSI as the Down Syndrome Ambassador to Turkey. It is an honor to have this title and I try hard to give justice to it.
On 21st March 2010, we organized the very first Down Syndrome Seminar in Turkey. Hundreds of people, experts and parents, many coming from different cities, and even from neighboring countries, attended the whole day seminar. This was followed by another full day training on sexuality in DS. Currently, we have two events running simultaneously; the exhibition and the friendship walk.
We hope to show that having Down Syndrome is only a part of who you are, it defines just a part of you, and if we are willing to let go of our pre-conceptions we will see that people with DS are great colleagues, friends, school buddies and they live life to the full.
I am inviting you to visit our photographic exhibition “Shifting Perspectives” to,… well… shift your perspectives. It provides images from the lives of people with Down Syndrome and it can be visited in 13 different venues throughout Istanbul from September to December thanks to the invaluable support of Mudo and Specialist Relocation and Organisation. Shifting Perspectives in Istanbul brings selected pieces of a series of exhibitions from the UK which has been running since five years with the comissioning of Down Syndrome Association UK. The images belong to professional photographers all of whom have a child or a relative with DS, and they allow us to witness their real life experiences.
Do yourselves a favor and visit both indoor and outdoor exhibitions. You will not regret it.
While you are out and about how about joining us on our Down Syndrome Friendship Walk? We will be in Beyoglu, Galatasaray Square at 3rd October 2010 at 15:00 hours together with our families and friends. We will walk from Galatasaray to Tunel to mark the DS awareness month.
In October, during the Down Syndrome awareness month, many organisations from all over the world organize events and activities to that purpose. Last year appoximately 2.5 million people from all over the world walked throughout October to create awareness on DS. This year Down Türkiye is organizing this walk with the same purpose for the first time in Türkiye. We will be walking, waving our balloons and generally having a good time.
Come and join. Who knows you might even make a friend or two who are a little different but in fact are just like you.
(To learn more about Down Turkiye or Down Syndrome please refer to www.downturkiye.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org)