Saimir, an 11-year-boy from the village of Qukes in the Librazhd region of Albania, lives with: his mother Violeta, 47, his father Bujar, his grandmother and his two older sisters. His permanent smile and friendly demeanor make him easy to love. But Saimir is not like the other children, he has something more. He has an extra chromosome. He has Down syndrome.
Raising Samir has not been so easy for his family. Before his diagnosis, had never heard of this syndrome and it was difficult for them to accept the news. “At 6-months-old, he got sick and we went to Greece to perform the surgery he needed. The doctors there, gave us more information, but I did not understand what was wrong with him,” remembers his mother. She asked herself, “Why me? Why my son?”. Soon, however, she pulled herself together and became strong for her son.
Saimir’s parents were guided by World Vision to a specialized center where they received additional information about this syndrome and also they were equipped with a card that provides free medical services for their child.
His father goes to Greece very often to find seasonal work there, because no one else in the family works and they are very poor. With his savings, he managed to buy a computer for Saimir, a gift that made him happier than ever. “He loves technology very much and it’s very difficult to take the computer away from him,” his mother says.
Saimir has had a special relationship with his mother since he was a little child and he continues to be attached to her even today. "[Children with Down syndrome] are very sensitive and loving and their feelings are easily hurt. You have to be patient and talk more with them. I try to stay with him as much as I can, in order for him not to be upset,” adds Violeta.
(Saimir and his mother Violeta, with whom he has a special relationship)
Despite his diagnosis, Saimir is a child with a lot of dreams. "I want to be a soccer player like Messi," he says with difficulty. He also wants to be a veterinarian because he likes cows and sheep a lot. He is able to practice by helping his mother take care of their animals.
“Saimir, also loves to go to school,” adds Besa, his older sister. “He becomes especially overjoyed when his friends ask for him,” she says, noting that he also enjoys dancing in school activities.
Earlier this year, in June, Saimir finished the fourth grade and his parents are very happy for him being in school together with other children. They have seen a positive change in him as he has become more social. His teachers have received special training from World Vision in which they learned how to include children with disabilities in their classroom, how to understand them better and how to communicate with them so they do not feel excluded.
“At first he was a problematic child,” says Ismail, Saimir’s teacher. “He didn’t socialize. He had communication problems. He also had problems in speaking and in remembering,” he adds. “Saimir couldn’t stay more than 5 to 10 minutes in one place, so he needed special attention. I spoke to him slowly and gently and gradually we became better friends with each other. Saimir is very creative and has a lot of dreams; you only have the will and the patience to attend to him,” continues Ismail, with his eyes full of joy because he is able to help Saimir.
“We are taught in the training held by World Vision, that for children like Saimir, we need to make an individual education plan. We have already prepared such a plan this year for him,” says Mirjana, Saimir’s school principal and Saimir's teacher. “In the training, we learned that we should let these children be free, if he wants to draw let him draw, if he wants to go outside the classroom let him go, because otherwise he becomes nervous and upset,” she explains. “Once, we used to look at these children with pity. Today they have the opportunity to feel like everyone else. We are happy that Saimir continues to attend school like all his other peers,” concludes Mirjana.
(Saimir and his teacher Mirjana, who is also the school principal)
World Vision continues to work closely with teachers across Albania, training them how to help children with disabilities in their schools by offering them tools and a professional manual, developed by World Vision Albania called: “I am among you, different and equal”. This manual helps teachers to successfully include students of all abilities in their classrooms.
More than 300 teachers have been trained in 10 districts across Albania (25 of them from Librazhd areas). World Vision works through Inclusive education towards equal development opportunities for every child and ensures that no child is ever excluded or made to feel different from other children living in his or her village or community.
Saimir is one of the 33.000 registered child in World Vision's sponsorship programme. The organization is also working with families to help their parents be aware and showing them ways how to be able to provide better development opportunities for their children.