In Bucharest, youngsters hold a fashion show. Others dance with a ballet ensemble. The performances feature kids with Down syndrome. The fact that these events happen at all illustrates how much Romania has changed since the fall of communism.
In pre-1989 Romania, being born with either a mental or physical disability was almost like a prison sentence. People shunned such children. Therefore, many parents surrendered disabled children to state care immediately after birth. That usually meant a lifetime inside institutions. Some parents kept their children at home—but without formal schooling or social interactions.
Back then, most facilities for disabled persons were outside cities. Some housed more than 350 people. Children and adults often lodged together. Experts say these institutions did not meet even basic living standards.
But in 1992, the new government in Romania passed a law. It recognized rights for all citizens. The law opened opportunities in education and employment for Romanians with disabilities.
Georgeta Bucur leads the Down Plus Association. Sadly, she says that bias against children with Down syndrome still exists in Romania. Her group promotes including people with the genetic disorder in society.
“They teach us a new lesson every single day,” Bucur says. “Spending even a little time together with them will make anyone change their [sic] views.”
Down Plus organizes events like the ballet and fashion show in Bucharest. Bucur emphasizes the positive effect such events have on the children. But the impact is two-way. She also stresses what the children give to those around them.
“People with Down offer everyone sincere and unconditional love,” Bucur says. “Living alongside them makes one overcome the focus on materialism, enjoy the small things in life, and care for one another.”
If those traits sound familiar, it’s because the Bible has the same focus. When people value non-earthly things and love one another, they’re living like Jesus commands. (Colossians 3:2, John 13:34)
During the fashion show, dubbed “heART Couture,” some Down Plus children showed their drawings. Some wore fabric prints of the images attached to skirts or tunics. For other outfits, a professional designer created pictures using the children’s suggestions of what to draw. Most were portraits of wide-eyed characters and included notes written in English—messages focused on love and family.
The two-hour dance show featured ethnic and classical dances. Children and adults wore traditional Romanian folk costumes. They performed alongside members of Bucharest’s Arabesque Children’s Ballet Ensemble.
“The two shows were their chance to shine,” says Bucur, “to feel important and talented, to feel they bring a contribution to the world we live in.”