April 8, 2019 | St. Croix, US Virgin Islands | NCC Staff/ IAD News Staff
Elementary students at the St. Maarten Seventh-day Adventist School wore colored socks and donated $1 US dollar during a special activity in observance of the World Down Syndrome Day, on March 21, 2019. Kindergarten through sixth-grade students took the day to bring about awareness of the disorder and shared their donations with the Sister Basilia Center on the island which provides resources for persons diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
It was the first year that the Adventist school of 337 students embarked on such a project, said Philemon Dupuis, one of the sixth-grade teachers. “We were so amazed at the support and excitement shown by all involved,” said Dupuis.
Leading up to the special day, students were asked to research the chromosomal condition that causes Down Syndrome and document their findings.
Emerald Thomas, a sixth grader, discovered that the disease is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of chromosome 21. “It is typically associated with physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disability, and characteristic facial features,” said Emerald.
According to United Nations statistics, each year approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with the chromosome disorder.
Teachers at the planned the initiative to shed light on the condition to the entire school body, organizers said.
“We aimed to highlight that being different is also beautiful as we are all created and loved by our Creator God,” said Dupuis. Students learned that children with Down Syndrome have 47 chromosomes instead of 46, which makes them special and unique in their own way, he added.
Teachers, students and the school’s management team collected $240 US dollars for the Sister Basilia Center which is part of The White and Yellow Cross CARE Foundation that provides guidance and assistance for the elderly, disabled and those in various districts on St. Maarten. There are currently 10 clients at the facility that are diagnosed with Down Syndrome, said Dupuis.
“Throughout the school, there were students discussing what Down Syndrome is and felt elated that they too could be part of such a great mission,” Dupuis said. Plans are to make the day an annual event in the school and to include the more than 3,000 Seventh-day Adventists who live on St. Maarten, in order to bring more awareness to the condition and raise funds to help those afflicted.