Working with Down Syndrome children & adults in Cienfuegos

Following a quick visit to a local farmer’s market (below) the Roundtable headed to the site of the Graphical Society of Cienfuegos, a program specializing in linography, but also in community service.

Our particular interest was in the project concerned with assisting children and adults with Down Syndrome. Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality involving an extra copy of chromosome 21. It causes lifelong developmental delays that cannot be cured but can be managed with educational interventions, specialized parenting techniques, and community engagement. The local Catholic cathedral sponsors the program at the graphical society as part of a five-day a week effort to improve the quality of life of people with Down Syndrome. Society director Rafael Casades (right below), cathedral program director Anita Alfonso (left), and society volunteer Jennifer Delgado outlined the elements of the entire thing.

On Monday, the group meets for music; on Tuesday, for dance therapy; on Wednesday participants go to the farmers’ market the Roundtable toured to make their own food purchases, which they will cook on Thursday. Friday is the only day they are involved with the graphical society, which has done a remarkable job developing the artistic work and self confidence of participants, with the evidence displayed on the society’s wall.

When the participants (aged from 12 to 55 years of age) were first invited to work at the Graphical Society, most were afraid and uncomfortable , anxious about being put in a new situation with strange people, said Anita Alfonso. There was no sign of fear or discomfort as the students gathered with the Roundtable for a photograph. Most smiled and introduced themselves, eager to put their arms around the shoulders of their new friends. This was a dramatic display of the value of program in developing the social poise and sense of confidence and self-esteem of adults and teenagers dealing with the challenges of Down Syndrome.

Rick Stout of Onslow schools in North Carolina presented director Casades with gifts from the Roundtable for the students in the program and we were on our way to meet the representatives from the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba.

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