Community Councilor With Down’s Syndrome Seeks To Empower Children With Special Needs

by Gopalan on  January 10, 2009 at 12:40 PM Child Health News
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 Community Councilor With Down’s Syndrome Seeks To Empower Children With Special Needs
A Welsh community councilor with Down's syndrome is on a mission to empower children with special needs.

Sara Pickard, 25, is telling them that they should not let their disabilities become a barrier to ambition.

She has visited hundreds of schools across Wales and spoken to thousands of students as part of a national campaign called Partners in Politics.

Sian Davies, Partners in Politics manager, said: "This project, which is supported by the Big Lottery Fund, is aimed at empowering young people with learning disabilities or special educational needs to take control of their lives.

"The unique thing about the project is that all the training is delivered by young people with learning disabilities. In this way we try to tackle ignorance and prejudice as well as informing young people on the political structures in Wales.

"The core training session is delivered by Sara Pickard, a young woman with Down's syndrome. For some pupils, this may be the first time they've met someone with a learning disability. Sara's job is so important because she is able to challenge ideas about learning disabilities amongst pupils and also inspire disabled pupils to want and expect more."

The woman herself is upbeat about her work and says she is getting some very good response wherever she goes.

"Bullying and having nothing to do when they are not in school are the two issues most commonly raised by young people I meet," said Sara.

"My workshop aims to get the message across that they have a voice to make a difference and they can do something about the problems in their communities. They just need the tools to do it."

The two-hour workshops for 15 to 25-year-olds, led by Sara, gives pupils a chance to express what things they would like to change in school or where they live and explains what political tools are available to effect change.

"I talk about the work of local councillors and Assembly Members and the Welsh Assembly Government to help young people understand how politics works and how it is important for them to have their say and to use their vote," she said.

The session includes a mock election and role play, and gives pupils a chance to express opinions on controversial issues. The session covers rights but also pupils' responsibility to protect each other's rights, Wales Online reports.

Sara said: "Everyone has got a voice and everyone has got rights. That is the main message I hope to get across to young people so that they can believe that anything is possible and they should play a part in their communities to make a difference rather than just leaving it to other people.

"I am a community councillor and this has helped me to make changes in my community.

"When new benches were recently installed in Pentyrch ( the village she represents as community councillor), I ensured that markings were put around them so that people who are visually impaired can find them more easily.

"Young people can see what is wrong with the places where they live, but few believe that they can make a difference."

Source: Medindia

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