A social movement to empower children and families with Down Syndrome to live a dignified life

Colombo, March 17, 2021- Hemas Outreach Foundation, together with AYATI – Sri Lanka’s first national centre for children with disabilities – launched ‘Eka Se Salakamu’ (Treat All Alike) to coincide with the World Down Syndrome Day celebrated on the 21st of March. ‘Eka Se Salakamu’ is a social movement aimed towards empowering children and families with Down Syndrome, creating a platform to recognize their rights and promote inclusivity in today’s society.

There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding Down Syndrome in Sri Lanka which leads to marginalization and stigmatization of this community. The ‘Eka Se Salakamu’ movement, is rooted in the concept of building an inclusive world through ‘healthful living’ which promotes a society that leaves no child behind. This core purpose will champion the cause and assist in eradicating the stigma being faced by them on a regular basis.

Through this movement, families and children with Down Syndrome will have a platform and the opportunity to express their views and share their own experiences with the public. The platform will also help to highlight the skills of the children and showcase their talents. The public and influencers are invited to join the platform and assist the community to live a dignified life and eradicate stigma and myth related to Down Syndrome. The AYATI Speech & Language Therapeutic wing aspires to become comparable with the global best in class for children with Down Syndrome by enabling them to develop their latent talents and helping them to become productive members of society.

“AYATI Center was built in partnership with the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Hemas Holdings, MAS Holdings, Roshan Wijerama Foundation, the Sri Lanka Army, Rotary and other donors to address a need in the country. When we initiated AYATI we had three objectives – to build the first national center of excellence, to eradicate stigma related to disabilities and to establish centers in rural Sri Lanka.

The “Eka Se Salakamu” movement is our effort to tackle stigma associated with Down Syndrome. Children with Down Syndrome are one of the most stigmatized groups in society. As a corporate that champions ‘healthful living’, we look forward to creating a more inclusive world by establishing a platform for families to air their views and get much-needed support from the community. Hemas Group has always worked towards the betterment of the lives of children with disabilities for over a decade through the Piyawara initiative. In 2006, a special school for children with disabilities was established in Hambantota. This was the initial stepping-stone for Hemas to support establishment of the AYATI national center. We also promote the employment of people who are intellectually impaired as we work towards providing them with a sense of renewed purpose through the prospect of employment,” said Shiromi Masakorala, Executive Director -Hemas Outreach Foundation / AYATI Trust Sri Lanka sharing her thoughts on the launch.

Consistent awareness is necessary to make a difference and change the mind-set within a community. The movement will, therefore, also pave way for the building of partnerships with key stakeholders. The project seeks to invite international experts to Sri Lanka through AYATI to collaborate and work with professional bodies in Sri Lanka. By getting the ‘Eka Se Salakamu’ movement off the ground, Hemas Outreach Foundation and AYATI would be leveraging on the wealth of knowledge and data that these institutes have gathered over the years through their work on children with disabilities.

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About Hemas Outreach Foundation

Established under Hemas Holdings PLC, the Hemas Outreach Foundation has been leading the Group’s purpose of promoting ‘healthful living’ through transformative corporate social responsibility. The mission of the foundation is to champion ‘Healthful Living’ for a better life through holistic interventions for Sri Lankan Families. The foundation operates as a Trust, managed by an eminent board of trustees.