A chance at independent living despite Down Syndrome
Project organised by an association allows people with Down Syndrome to learn how to live by themselves in an apartment.8 April 2008
VICTORIA - "I had a great time in the apartment, and I learnt a lot - I learnt to cook, how to coordinate the decoration in the house, how to put my makeup on... I'm really sad that my stay is over and I want to come back here again."
Oihana wrote these words last year after taking part in Enebizia, the first project organized by the Álava Down Syndrome Association. She told her friend Rubén Barbero all about it in an attempt to get him interested - it worked.
Last week, 26-year-old Rubén Barbero, who has Down Syndrome, spent his first day in the apartment, learning the basics of grocery shopping for himself. He is one of the participants in Enebizia, which will run until December, thanks to backing from the provincial council.
"I normally go and buy bread," Rubén says. "And I also know how to sweep up and make my bed. But my favourite thing is cooking. I love making tortillas," he says.
The success of the 2007 project - when five young people with Down Syndrome shared the apartment and learnt how to live more independently - looks set to repeat itself this year, as Rubén's enthusiasm attests.
Both he and his roommates, who'll arrive this week, will be looked after by two special-needs teachers, who will help them learn how to carry out domestic tasks - from withdrawing money from their local branch of the Caja de Ahorros de Navarra, which is supporting the project, to doing the ironing or the laundry.
Meanwhile, they'll continue with their everyday jobs, such as soccer training, in Rubén's case. At night, they'll head back to their family homes.
"The idea is that they practice these skills enough so that they can live independently," says Yolanda Sanz, the coordinator from the Álava Down Syndrome Association. "Although they will of course have family support at certain times."
Overprotection from families can sometimes be a problem, which is why the association has opted for this type of care. "But it is clear that they would rather live with who they want," explains Yolanda, "rather than someone they are forced to live with."
Little by little, thanks to word of mouth, the 60 members of the association will be able to make their way toward independence. All of those who took part in the 2007 project now want to go and live on their own, and this summer, they'll have another chance, when they get to return to the apartment to live alongside its current inhabitants.
That's when Álvaro will have the chance once more to take out his own money, and Lucía will be able to do would she wrote about last year: "I like sleeping alone every night and living alone. I'm really happy learning about the home."
[El Pais / Txema G. Crespo / Expatica]