PETALING JAYA: Last weekend, local NGO World Saree Day Malaysia (WSDM) collaborated with the Down Syndrome Association of Malaysia (PSDM) on a charity event that saw 10 “models” with Down Syndrome showing off their traditional Indian attire.
Held at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak in Kuala Lumpur, the high-tea event was held in conjunction with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, and was aimed at creating awareness on the condition while raising funds for PSDM and promoting the beauty of the saree.
Guests were treated to a showcase of over 60 sarees of various textiles and draping styles, including those from north and south India, accompanied by narration on their history and other fascinating facts.
The PSDM members then took to the stage, among them 23-year-old Brian Lee, who was clad in a vibrant orange kurta.
“Orange is his favourite colour,” his mother, Chan Oi Wah, told FMT proudly, saying this was not Lee’s first time on a runway: he previously participated in other PSDM events and for World Autism Day.
“Brian loves to run and walk; he loves the outdoors and being with people,” Chan further shared. “So we always makes sure he goes out for his exercise.”
Her son attends classes at PSDM, while at home, Chan – a special-needs teacher – guides him on various topics including the alphabet, timekeeping, and nutrition.
She said she makes it a point to spend time with him as she believes parents play a vital role in ensuring their children have a safe and supportive environment conducive to learning.
To that end, Chan has also brought Lee overseas as a way of exposing him to other locations and cultures.
“It’s important for me as a mother to open up his world,” she said. “If I don’t do it, who will?”
Another proud mother, Zamidah Zainal, grew teary-eyed upon seeing her daughter, Siti Aisyah, parade confidently in her elegant purple saree.
“My daughter is a crowd puller,” she told FMT. “She’s able to interact with her peers so well, and enjoys spending time with her friends.
“I think one of the reasons for this is because since she was two, I’ve been sending her for speech-therapy classes, so she’s able to articulate and express herself.”
Zamidah explained that Siti Aisyah, 24, is part of a programme called The Inclusive Outdoor Classroom, an initiative where special-needs and typically developing children interact.
“As a parent, I want to do my best for my child, which is why I make sure she goes to the right classes,” she added.
Asked how she felt about the charity event, Zamidah was effusive, saying she learnt a lot about sarees and Indian culture, and hopes more Malaysians will participate in similar cultural events in the future.
World Saree Day is celebrated every year on Dec 21.