Among those taking part in the jolly display of mismatched hosiery, Velga Polinska wore blue and purple socks, while Veronika Bašarina wore pink and green socks. The families of both board members of the "Down Syndrome Latvia" association have children with Down's Syndrome, and the association works to increase understanding and reduce prejudice against the condition.
Velga and Veronika walked around Riga on Tuesday, humming the new song, with socks of different colors on their feet. If someone asks about their socks, they are ready to talk about Down Syndrome Day, but more so about their much-loved boys. Velga's Madars already attends school in the 1st grade. Veronika's Aleks is still in kindergarten.
One of the common misconceptions is that Down's Syndrome is a 'disease'? But it's not. Ten to fifteen children are born with Down Syndrome every year in Latvia.
Velga says: "People with Down's Syndrome have one more chromosome. Typically there are 46, so 23 pairs. And this extra one is exactly in the 21st pair. That's why we mark it exactly on March 21. On it own this extra chromosome does not cause anything, but it produces many side factors such as making it more difficult to learn things."
Veronika says: "Aleks goes to kindergarten and there are no questions. Younger children are very open. It's a combination of mental and physical conditions. They ask me about my son, does he speak? Will he speak? I can't say yet. There are programs available in Latvia that help develop speech."
Down Syndrome Latvia celebrates March 21 with an ambitious project including contains free educational material that helps teachers talk about Down Syndrome among younger classes.
Velga says: "We specially chose a team that can appeal to a young audience. Because it is young people who can change prejudices and change ways of thinking, and look at the world more openly."
Madars' and Aleks' moms also respond to anonymous Internet commenters in a calm manner. They want people to learn the facts about this syndrome and draw their own conclusions, or maybe just watch the new clip and get to know some of the children and young people with this syndrome.
In support of the association, on March 21 the popular cello group Melo-M teamed up with musicians Rasa Bugavičute-Pēce, Kārlis Auzāns, Dināra Rudāne and Elza Auzāne to premiered a special clip (below) titled 'Open your eyes and heart' (Atver acis un sirdi) to showcase people with Down Syndrome in Latvia. It's really great.
World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), 21 March, is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome. You can read more about World Down Syndrome Day at https://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org/