A Letter from DuHope on World Down Syndrome Day

As we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, the staff at DuHope are proud to spotlight our experience working with people with Down Syndrome. DuHope is a social enterprise, which provides counseling, spiritual development, and vocational training so that women can break free from the cycle of poverty, heal from trauma, and live empowered lives. Over the past year, a partnership has blossomed between DuHope and the Rwanda Down Syndrome Organization (RDSO). Together, we are working towards empowerment, inclusion, and opportunity for individuals with Down syndrome, as well as increased awareness around employment of people with Down syndrome.

At DuHope, we have been working with a young woman with Down Syndrome, Louise. Louise is a shining example of the transformative power of collaboration. Over the past year, Louise has been interning with DuHope, where she has been learning invaluable skills; from mastering the basics of reading and counting to learning addition and subtraction, Louise is on a journey towards independence and self-sufficiency.

Working with Felicity, Louise’s primary point of contact at DuHope, Louise has grown in her professional and social skills. Once shy and hesitant, Louise now confidently engages in conversation, eagerly connecting with others. We hope that she will continue learning and growing until she can join the DuHope production team. Her journey has been an inspiration to all staff at DuHope, many of whom had almost no interaction with developmental disabilities previously.

We are also excited to announce the arrival of a new intern, a young man with Down syndrome who has been recommended by RDSO. By inviting another intern to join the team, we are not only expanding our own DuHope family but also modeling inclusion to the broader community. We have begun encouraging companies to follow suit and hire individuals with Down syndrome. We are excited to report success so far.

As an organization committed to dignity and inclusion, we encourage companies to look into their hiring practices. We must expand our horizons, actively welcoming individuals with Down Syndrome into our workforce and empowering them to thrive. In doing so, we are becoming change-makers, developing the skills of individuals with Down Syndrome to better equip them to participate in the workplace. In the same breath, we urge companies who embrace this approach not to fall into the trap of exploitation and objectification, but rather ensure genuine inclusion and care for the person as an individual.

From our experience, we recommend that companies interested in hiring people with Down syndrome begin at RDSO. Plan to have a focal person at your company who can work one-on-one, dedicating time to build key skills. Come with a heart of compassion and an open mind, putting aside any lingering preconceived notions about the limitations someone with Down syndrome might have. They will surprise you! You will see them learn, grow, and achieve beyond what you imagined possible. By embracing diversity and fostering environments of respect, we pave the way for a future where everyone can reach their full potential. Let's stand with RDSO in championing inclusion.

As we celebrate Down Syndrome Day, let us recognize the unique talents and abilities of individuals with Down syndrome and also affirm our commitment to creating a world where they are valued, included, and empowered to shine. With organizations like the Rwanda Down Syndrome Organization and DuHope paving the way, the hope is that more companies will embrace inclusion and transform the lives of people with Down syndrome by offering steady, inclusive employment.