Down’s syndrome group hits hard times

Zimbabwe Down Syndrome Association (ZDSA), a private and voluntary organisation working with parents of children living with the condition, has been hit by the withdrawal of some of its donors.

Sibonisiwe Mazula, ZDSA coordinator, with the peanut butter roasters that helped raise much-needed funds.
Sibonisiwe Mazula, ZDSA coordinator, with the peanut butter roasters that helped raise much-needed funds.

The organisation, which provides support and information to parents and families, was set up in 1984.The name Down’s syndrome comes from John Langdon Down, an English physician who published the first accurate description of the syndrome in 1866.

The organisation’s coordinator, Sibonisiwe Mazula, told The Zimbabwean that they were now appealing for financial assistance to run the organisation and fund some projects. “We are no longer able to carry out our operations because of lack of financial resources. I am doing voluntary work because the organisation is broke. We have not paid our rent for some time now,” said Mazula, who has a 28-year-old daughter with Down’s.

The ZDSA helped set up a peanut butter making business meant to empower parents, but they now needed funds to resuscitate the venture. “We used to run a thriving peanut butter making business, but that is no longer running,” said Mazula. “We cannot raise money to buy raw materials and pay the grinders. Although this project is viable, it is not enough to sustain all our organisational expenses, which include rents, salaries and other expenses. We need other projects to complement the peanut making venture.”

During its peak, the peanut butter business produced nearly 2,000 small jars a week, and proceeds helped pay for school fees and uniforms.

Mazula expressed concern over the shortage of specialised schools for Down’s syndrome children and the high tuition fees charged by the few schools offering services.

“Most good Down’s syndrome schools are privately run and are very expensive. Most of the affordable schools do not have adequate and ideal infrastructure for our children. We want the government to intervene and make well-equipped and cheap schools available for Down’s children,” she said.

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