Zeke from Mauritius
My name is Jean Daniel, aka Zeke. I am a young man with Down syndrome living in Mauritius.
Growing up, I attended a mainstream school and although I could not complete my education, I later attended a vocational training centre. Unfortunately, the system was not adapted to my needs and I eventually had to stay at home, without any prospects for the future.
Luckily, with the help of my now mentor, Ferozia Hosaneea, I joined an NGO – the Youth with Disabilities Empowerment Platform – a fully inclusive organization created exclusively to provide new opportunities for young adults with disabilities. This organization offers classes, courses, training, workshops and conferences so as to empower those in my situation with possibilities of future employment. At the training centre, I have learned how to cook and bake; fabricate, design, and market my own decorative items; and I am even saving the planet by creating and selling Eco Bags to reduce the use of plastic bags in my country.
All the funds I collect from my sales go directly to me and I am very happy to be seen and treated as someone who is capable of earning his own living.
These have opened new doors for me: I can now think bigger. As I love to cook and bake, I can open my own business, sell my own cakes and live independently. With the help of my sister, I make short videos called “Cook with Zeke” (Watch me cook pizza!!) where I demonstrate my cooking and baking skills which are published on our social media. I have gotten lots of views and this encourages me to pursue a new journey as an entrepreneur. This has also raised a lot of awareness on the capabilities of individuals with Down syndrome, especially where I live.
I wish to see more opportunities like this for persons with Down syndrome. We are capable of so many things, with the appropriate support and resources. These are sadly not readily available in my country, which means that the majority of those like me, are left to fend for themselves and are highly dependent on their parents.
For me, inclusion means equal chances. We need to be given the same chances as everyone else. For example, putting us in special schools decreases our chances of finding a job and becoming independent. Similarly, we are still viewed as not being able to be employed. This is not true. We can work and we can perform the same tasks as everybody else. We just need to be shown how. Inclusion means empowerment.
I would especially like to thank my organization and my mentor for making this change happen in my community.
The best way to promote awareness of Down syndrome is for people with Down syndrome to share their own stories in their own words.
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