Helping make a brighter future for Down's syndrome children

For young people with Down’s syndrome, life can look bleak. Developing skills, finding a job and living independently are, for many, an impossible dream – and certainly not something that can be achieved without a great deal of support. In Mexico, it’s estimated that around 5.1 percent of the population has a disability of some kind, but exact figures for those with Down’s syndrome are not available as some families will hide a child with this condition. They receive no formal education and in time become an economic burden to those who care for them. In recent times the Mexican government has tried to address the problem but there is still enormous reliance on charitable organizations run by selfless people who are prepared to donate their own time, effort and money. One such place is Centro Down in Apodaca, Nuevo León. Here, children with Down’s syndrome are able to get an education and work towards a more independent future. Volunteers from Powder Coatings learned of the center through work with another project nearby, Vientos de Esperanza – Winds of Hope – which provides training and job opportunities for young people with mental disabilities.

They were inspired to extend their support and help children with Down’s syndrome have the chance of a better life. They learned that the stimulation of motor skills was a vital part of development, but lack of resources meant much necessary equipment was not available. The Powder Coatings colleagues were determined to help and requested support from the Community Program, which was granted. No fewer than 64 of them – 83 percent of the total workforce – organized themselves into five teams and worked together over four months to provide 12 beautiful and functional sets of equipment that could be used to help Down’s Syndrome children learn and develop as fully as possible. An old warehouse was identified as the perfect place to be cleaned and transformed into a ‘gym’ that would improve the lives of children from 50 families.

The Equipment Team was responsible for designing four different models, buying necessary materials, and building and painting three sets of each piece of equipment. The Maintenance Team converted the warehouse into the neuro-motor gym, making it safe, clean and attractive and providing items such as air-conditioning, soft furnishings and paint.

Meanwhile, the Activities & Recreation Team organized a whole range of fun activities for the children, including a puppet theater play, making life-size cartoon characters and dancing. A Food & Beverage Team was in charge of providing drinks and refreshments for everyone, while the Photography Team took lots of pictures to capture the project as it progressed and the happy faces of the children as they enjoyed themselves and got to use their new gym.

Mayra Moreno, HR Manager and Community Program coordinator, said: "Sometimes our mission seemed unreachable, but just thinking about the happy faces of the kids when looking at their neuro-motor gym and how their lives would change dramatically with the development of their motor skills was inspiring enough to keep us going." The project enhanced the volunteers’ feeling of being a team. Everyone wanted to finish the project on time, to deliver what was promised and help the children have brighter futures. It would give them a better chance of finding jobs, contributing to society and living a more independent life. "What I liked most about participating in this project was the interaction with the whole team," said Edgar Aguirre, one of the volunteers. "Everybody had the same energy and the same goal – to make the kids from the Down Center very happy. We, all together, accomplished our project. I felt great satisfaction because from now on they are going to be able to develop new skills to improve their lives on their own."

His colleague, Maru Rodriguez, added: "Thanks to AkzoNobel we could express our charitable instincts. Knowing that with our help we didn’t just help the children but also their families is very satisfying, since they will be productive people thanks to the equipment we donated. Being around the kids was a marvelous experience, we had such a great time."