Saturday, July 28, 2012

Down’s syndrome no handicap for this award-winner

from The New Age by Maryna van Wyk:

Sheri Brynard, a 30-year-old teacher’s assistant from Bloemfontein, who has Down’s syndrome, has become the voice of people suffering from the condition and a beacon of hope for parents of children with disabilities.

The pinnacle of her success was realised when she became the first disabled person in South Africa to have won in one of the categories in the Checkers Women of the Year Awards. She was crowned the winner in the category for youth workers at a prestigious event in Johannesburg, held on Saturday night, and received a standing ovation.

Susette Brynard, her mother, said yesterday the weekend was a very spiritual experience.

“I know miracles still happen when I look at her. She must be one of God’s favourite children because he gave her a responsibility to act on behalf of disabled people. She lives a daily life full of challenges and despite this, can contribute to the lives of others,” she said.

Shéri has set new boundaries for people with Down’s Syndrome when she qualified as an assistant teacher at Lettie Fouche School, in Bloemfontein. She is also a motivational speaker locally and abroad.

She’s the first and only person in the country with Down’s syndrome to have received a tertiary qualification, after she graduated from the technical college in Bloemfontein. She was also the first child with Down’s syndrome to attend and successfully graduate from a mainstream school, aged 21.

Shéri, who looked different from the other pupils, had to endure mockery and exclusion, but did not allow setbacks in her life to stop her from achieving her goals.

Competition spokesperson, Patti Quinton, said Shéri’s achievements had changed perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities. Because of her progress, schools are now more willing to give pupils with Down’s syndrome a chance in mainstream classes.

Shéri recently passed an audition for a role in the television series Binneland.

As part of the award, she won R30000 as well as R100000 for the charity of her choice.

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