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Caritas’s CCAMH program is celebrating the World Down syndrome Day at Chey Chum Neas Referral Hospital in Kandal province
 
21st March 2016 marks the 11th anniversary of the World Down Syndrome Day under the theme “My Friends, My Community”. Each year the people with Down syndrome, parents and those who live and work with them, raise their voice to be heard by the policy makers, planners and the general community in particular.

Every year, CCAMH organizes a special event to celebrate the World Down Syndrome Day. This year 2016, is the Year of Mercy and a milestone in the life of Caritas-CCAMH, as it touches 25th year of service to children with disability.
To commemorate the World Down Syndrome Day during the Silver Jubilee Year 2016, CCAMH and the parents association of children with Down syndrome has organized indoor and outdoor activities to help raise awareness of the Down Syndrome Day and to reflect on what and how children with Down syndrome play a vital role in their lives and the communities. CCAMH team thanked to the Department of Special Education in Phnom Penh and educational authorities, parents association and Special Olympic Committee who have supported and participated in this special event.
Indoor activities at Chey Chumneas Referral Hospital

In collaboration with the Special Olympic Committee, an organization that works on promoting health to children living with Down syndrome in Cambodia, CCAMH program jointly organized some fun sport activities for children with Down syndrome at Chey Chumneas Referral Hospital in Kandal province.

As Children with Down syndrome are often denied opportunities for sport and recreational activities, Dr. J. Bhoomikumar, the Director and Consultant Child
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Children and parents are participating in fun sport activities led by Caritas CCAMH team with its partner organization, Special Olympic
Psychiatrist of Caritas’s CCAMH said this event would give opportunities for them to engage in sport and art activities to, thereby express hidden talents/ability to do things. “This also improves their brain development and self-esteem which enables them to participate in daily life. It also allows parents to raise their voices, needs, challenges, and concerns of their children’s condition to the general public”, added Dr. J. Bhoomikumar.

There is no available data on the number of children living with Down syndrome in Cambodia. According to Mrs. Sok Dearozet, Community Program Manager for CCAMH, as of 2016, there are 128 children across the country from the age of 5- 20 years old are receiving counseling and treatment at Chey Chumneas Hospital. Children with Down syndrome may experience delayed development and endure behavioral difficulties. They could be easily recognized due to their different physical outlook, faces and behaviors. And therefore, they are often been discriminated and bullied, Mrs. Dearozet explained. “I would like to urge everyone, especially parents to continue supporting children with Down syndrome to ensure that they are given the opportunity to participate in all daily activities as normal children do so that they can be more independent. This is essential to support them to build dignity for their lives in the future”, said Mrs. Sok Dearozet.
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Children with Down syndrome and parents are enjoying various fun sport activities at Chey Chumneas Referral Hospital in Takmao, Kandal province on 18th March 2016
Music and art activities at Meta House

Caritas strives to promote the inclusion of children with Down syndrome in the community by giving them an opportunity to express their feeling through art, painting and music. On Sunday the 20th, March 2016, CCAMH program organized an outdoor event at Meta House in Phnom Penh, where children can express their feeling through painting and music. It is found that about one in 700 children suffer from this genetic (born with) condition. Most often mothers above the age of 35 give birth to children with Down syndrome and they feel guilty of giving birth to a child who looks different from other children. Dr. J. Bhoomikumar, the Director and Consultant Child Psychiatrist of Caritas’s CCAMH program explained “It is, therefore, important that parents meet at a public place like Meta House to express solidarity together and overcome shame and stigma”. It was also an opportunity for parents to voice on this occasion to demand education and health services for their children, Dr. Bhoomi shared.

There were 14 children and their parents participated in the evening event. The children enjoyed painting and exhibiting their art along with their parents. After this event, they had nourishing snacks. Asides from art and painting activities, the film ‘Building inclusive communities with Love and Wisdom’ was also screened at Meta House the same evening.
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Children are taking part in painting and music at Meta house on Sunday, 20th March 2016 and they received the award
Context: Down syndrome in Cambodia

In Cambodia, like in the rest of the low income countries, many women in rural households end up having a child with Down syndrome, as they are more likely to have children beyond the age of 35 years. This adds to the burden of families who are already below poverty line.  Children with Down syndrome face different challenges in society. They are often bullied as they look different from other children. The children with Down syndrome are discriminated and they feel stigmatized. They do not have access to education as the teachers are not trained to provide inclusive or special education. There is no vocational training center for them to gain skills and get employment opportunities and CCAMH team is striving to overcome these challenges by supporting them for vocational training at Caritas Youth Development center at Takmau, Kandal province.

Caritas’s Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health program (Caritas-CCAMH), located within the premises of Chey Chumneas Referral Hospital in Takhmau, Kandal province has been working with children with Neuro-developmental and mental health problems for the past 25 years. CCAMH calls for concerted effort to support people, especially children with Down syndrome.

Message to the parents
  • Understand clearly about the child's condition/ needs and treat them as one among other children. Seek help early on and offer stimulation so that they can go to school like any other children.
Messages to teachers/ educational authorities
  • Give them opportunity to learn with other children, even if they are slow to learn.
Message to community members
  • Children with Down syndrome love music, art and enjoy being with the company of others. Please include them in all daily activities to promote independent living. When integrated at school with other children they easily make friends, leading to joyful social life.

Let us celebrate diversity, the beauty of existence and the friendship of children with Down syndrome.

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