With Scotland due to host 2018 event, young participants in the Handover Ceremony in India explain the impact it has on their lives and aspirations
In 2018 Down’s Syndrome Scotland will host the World Down’s Syndrome Congress in Glasgow. In August a team of staff and representatives of the charity travelled to India to attend the World Down’s Syndrome Congress 2015 to learn and to take part in the handover ceremony as the next host nation. Our lead commissioners for the WDSC in 2018, Andrew MacIntyre, 26, Stuart Campbell, 27, and Sam Ross, 25, all had important roles to play. They wanted to share their stories with you.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel to Chennai, India but in preparation for our handover ceremony I had an important job to do. I had to interview Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. I had a bunch of questions prepared for her about the congress and why bringing it to Scotland is so exciting. She was really nice and friendly; I also discovered her favourite food is the same as mine – curry.
We all headed very early from around the country to catch flights to meet up in Heathrow, for our long flight to Chennai. When we arrived and walked out the airport the heat hit us, as did the hustle and bustle and noise of the car horns even though it was four o’clock in the morning. After a short sleep we went to register.
The next day was the Panchyat, which means assembly, it was a day set aside for people with Down’s syndrome. We were put in groups and talked about what we wanted from congress and what we wanted to achieve in life. It was really good to talk to other people from around the world with the same goals as me.
There were lots of fun workshops for us to take part in; my favourite was dressing up as a rich Indian prince. On the Friday, Sarah came with me and Sam to one of the workshops. There was an interesting video about getting a job; I took lots of notes because I want to get a job. There was also a talk from a man with Down’s syndrome called Alex who lives in a flat with two flatmates, not support staff, just as his friends. I would like to do that as well one day.
After the workshop we had lunch and then we had to get ready for our big role that evening at the Handover Ceremony. Tam, Sam’s dad, helped me get ready, we both wore our kilts. We gave a speech to everyone about what the Congress in Glasgow in 2018 will be like. I wasn’t nervous because I had been practising all week.
The first of our jobs as lead commissioners was on the second day. In the opening ceremony flags from around the world (41 in total) were carried into the main room in front of all the delegates. I proudly carried the Scotland flag wearing a Scottish rugby top, much too hot for the Indian heat. Stuart carried the Union flag wearing his kilt and a British Lions top.
It was really exciting and I ended up right in the middle of the stage. Everyone said it looked really impressive. Some of my favourite parts of the congress were Emotion21 dance sessions, cultural dancing, garland-making and dressing up in traditional Indian clothing. My absolute favourite bit was learning Bollywood dancing.
Friday was our big day, Stuart and I did a speech at the Handover Ceremony and Andrew’s video with the First Minister was shown. I wore a sari. Unlike Stuart I felt really nervous. As soon as we arrived they treated us like film stars, everyone wanted our photo. Our speech went very well and everyone really liked it, there was a massive applause at the end.
We are all really excited about being lead commissioners at the World Down’s Syndrome Congress in 2018 and are looking forward to welcoming delegates to Scotland.
• If you would like to find out more about the World Down’s Syndrome Congress 2018 you can register your interest and receive regular updates by visiting www.wdsc2018.org.uk.