Mexico Ministry Focuses on Down Syndrome

Post a Comment » Written on November 19th, 2009     
Filed under: News
MONTERREY, MEXICO (November 19, 2009) – Altagracia Veloz says that if it weren’t for the 10-year-old ministry of Project Down, she and her family would not be thriving with a family member who has Down Syndrome.

“For me, Project Down is part of my family,” Veloz says. “It is where I found for the first time understanding of my situation. I realized that there are many families that are in similar situations. It was where they made me feel that together we are able to achieve much more and that our children can have a more dignified life in society.”

Started in 1999, the ministry is a unique program of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), a ministry of Covenant World Mission and the Covenant Church of Mexico. “There is no other program in Monterrey that has a holistic approach and serves the entire family with children with Down syndrome,” says Covenant Missionary Patty Restrepo.

Other Covenant missionaries who work with FDF, which also offers parenting, marriage enrichment and conflict resolution courses, are Nils and Erika Clauson, Lisandro and Patty Restrepo, Brian and Kerith Weld, and short-term missionary Amy Mullin.

Former missionary to Mexico Dena Luchsinger started Project Down after their son, Andrew, was born with Down Syndrome. The leadership of the parents, however, has been crucial to advancing the project, which now serves more than 100 families in the greater Monterrey area.

Nils Clauson notes that it was a group of parents who pursued and obtained a $10,000 grant from the Monterrey branch of the Halliburton Company in January for a scholarship program.

“The idea came from a great economic need and the desire to fight to help our daughter advance,” says Veloz, who founded the scholarship program. “It also arose out of a desire to be able to help other families that are in the same situation that we are in.”

The scholarships fund therapy as well as education for elementary aged children with Down Syndrome. “The therapies make a significant difference in the lives of the children as they provide opportunities for improving social behavior, speech, motor-skills and other abilities,” says Clauson.

“In the long run, this allows the child a higher standard of life and more independence as he or she grows into adolescence and adulthood,” he adds. “Even at an early age it is often evident by their behavior which ones have had the privilege of being able to participate in such therapies and which have not.”

The therapies and other resources are slowly becoming more available in Mexico, but there is still a huge portion of the population for whom they would be inaccessible,” Clauson says. “These therapies would often be cost prohibitive for many families in Project Down.”

Ana Maria, the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, says the grants and other ministries have been life-changing. “It has been so useful for me and my family, and if this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be at peace nor would I enjoy my son as I have been able to.”

“We don’t feel like we are alone anymore,” says another mother, Martha Hernandez. She adds that she is grateful for how the ministry also has connected her with medical, educational, and psychological resources.”

She adds, “With all of this, we have been able to reproduce and extend this model to other communities in Mexico, carrying to them our testimony and model of working together.”

The parents are pursuing other grants through Halliburton and other businesses, as well as individuals and charities. “We have a lot more dreams we would like to become a reality,” Restrepo says.

Project Down has served as a platform for other initiatives led by parents. One of the largest is a conference organized for other parents and medical professionals. It is held every other year – more than 1,000 people attended the event in 2008, says Restrepo.

Restrepo says the work of Project Down and other FDF ministries is important to sharing the gospel. “I truly believe that people are inspired and encouraged to follow Jesus – or at a minimum, get curious about him and his good news when they experience first-hand his love through concrete actions of sacrificial and servant love.”

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