In August a delegation of Mencap Cymru volunteers headed to South Africa for the 11th world Down’s syndrome congress in Cape Town.
The group included three mothers of people with Down’s syndrome from Anglesey - Dot Gallagher, Ann Williams and Janet Jones. They spoke to the conference about their experiences supporting their children, including helping them to develop relationships. Dot’s son, Mike and Ann’s daughter, Alyson are partners.
The idea that people with a learning disability can fall in love and have a sexual relationship is often a taboo subject. But we can’t have it both ways –we may want our children to live ‘normal’ lives, but we can’t pick and choose which parts. We can’t say that we want them to take part in sport, but ignore that they might want a relationships with someone. It’s not easy, but I hope our experiences helped some of the delegates from other parts of the world.
The three were joined by Sandro Cairns and Sara Pickard from Mencap Cymru. Both Sara and Sandro have Downs Syndrome. Sara works as the Inspire Me Project officer for Wales and Sandro is a Mencap Cymru Committee member. They spoke about the how Mencap Cymru supports people with a learning disability to fulfil ambassador roles like theirs.
I was very proud of Sandro and Sara as they spoke incredibly well, with humour and humility. What will travel with me is the power of groups of people with a learning disability simply enjoying being with people who are the same, who do not judge them by the way they look, speak or think, but just accept each other.
Wayne Crocker, Mencap Cymru director
Mencap Cymru has long standing links with this part of the world and since 1999 it has workedwith the LSMHP, its counterpart charity in Lesotho, the small country entirely surrounded by South Africa and twinned with Wales.
The visit to Cape Town, Lesotho and Botswana was funded by those attending and included money from an European Social Fund project on how to include people with a learning disability in international development.