US Embassy in Manila continues its support for Down Syndrome
The yearly Happy Walk for Down Syndrome is continuing to “level up” not only in terms of attendance and awareness but its reach all over the country.
Today, the annual Happy Walk for Down Syndrome broke record attendance with almost 8,000 participants attending the event at the SMX Convention Center in Mall of Asia in Pasay City, and in Cebu City and Davao City.
Hans Sy, Chairman of the Executive Committee of SM Prime Holdings Inc., US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and Thai Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission Urawadee Sriphiromya were also in attendance during the event taking part in the dance numbers and the main walk around MOA.
This year marks the third consecutive year that the US Embassy led by its ambassador has taken part in the Happy Walk, which is done in celebration of the National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.
In a statement, Kim said he is grateful for being invited once again to the event. “I am grateful to SM for hosting this wonderful event with the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Inc. (DSAPI),” he said during the event.
The Happy Walk for Down Syndrome, now on its 16th year, was held in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings Inc.
The Happy Walk for Down Syndrome had come a long way since it started on Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City with only a handful of parents with Down Syndrome participating. Last year, Happy Walk was able to gather together some 4,000 attendees.
Elmer Lapena, Chairman of DSAPI, said aside from the Happy Walk, they have launched their health clinic which caters to children with Down Syndrome. “This is important because a child with Down Syndrome needs to see at least ten doctors with different specializations because of their various health conditions,” Lapena said adding that at least thirty percent of children with Down Syndrome have heart problems.
He pointed out that the health clinics will be conducted in different parts of the country starting this coming April.
He added they have partnered with different companies to employ some of their members with Down Syndrome as part of their continuing efforts for full integration into society.
Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which an extra genetic material called chromosome 21 causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. There is no known cause or cure but Lapena said 80 percent of babies with the condition are born to mothers aged 35 year and below but the risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome increases as women get older.
Health data show that one person with Down Syndrome is born in the Philippines every four hours. That accounts for around 1,900 cases each year in the Philippines in a population of 1.5 million live births. That means over 100,000 families in the country are living with a person with Down Syndrome
Lapena said contrary to popular belief, Down Syndrome is a common genetic disorder that affects one in every 800 Filipino children. Which is the reason why, he said, it is vital that their inclusion to Philippine society is achieved.
Lapena stated that DSAPI is also engaged in various activities to promote awareness on the condition and to help parents cope with their situation. Lapena said DSAPI has the Early Intervention Seminar which has been designed to answer questions of parents of children with Down Syndrome and provide important information and services.
“The program aims to help the child’s development and meet the needs of the child and the family at different developmental stages. Early Intervention is necessary to arm the family with the information needed to bring out their child’s fullest potential and to provide a checklist of activities to be done to assure the child’s healthy growth and development,” Lapena stated.
Engr. Bien Mateo, SM Cares Program on Persons with Disabilities, said they are humbled and honored by the continuing faith of DSAPI in SM. “We have not only become partners, but we are now family and we will continue to support you and your worthwhile advocacy, Mateo said.
He further stated that that advancing the causes of People with Disability (PWD) is one of the advocacies of SM Cares. “We at SM Prime Holdings Inc. consider our yearly hosting of the Happy Walk for Down Syndrome a privilege to show these special children that we truly care. SM Cares.We want to make our own contribution to ensure that people with Down Syndrome can and do make meaningful and productive contributions to the community throughout their lives. We want to bring about positive change to ensure that people with Down Syndrome have opportunities to contribute and have their rights guaranteed,” he said.
He added SM Cares, through the years, has instituted key programs to address the needs of PWDs which earned it the reputation of being the most PWD-friendly mall in the country. All malls have dedicated areas for parking and disembarking for PWDs, special restrooms, ramps, Braille signages, designated areas for PWDs in theaters and dining rooms as well as utilities within accessible height like pay phones and wash room sinks. Mall security guards and personnel are also trained to respond to the unique needs of PWDs,” he pointed out.