Youth with Down Syndrome Finds Livelihood, Thanks to RYTHM Foundation-WDC partnership
Kosala Wedagedera, 24 was born with Down Syndrome in Sri Lanka. Due to his condition, he was forced to constantly transfer from one school to another since he had difficulties adjusting to a regular classroom and the schools did not offer special education for students with disabilities.
After watching his son struggle to fit in, his father Gamini Wedagedera decided to enroll him at the Koshinne special education unit, run by the non-governmental organisation Women’s Development Centre (WDC), which serves and empowers women, children, and persons with disabilities as well as marginalised groups.
Here, Kosala received special attention from his teachers and he gradually learned to interact and make friends with his classmates and continued his education until he turned 17.
His parents were happy their son could now read, write, and do basic mathematics. They wanted him to learn skills and be able to live independently so they enrolled him at the WDC’s Vocational Training Centre (VTC) where he was introduced to carpentry. In addition to wood carving, he was also trained in carpet weaving, making ekel brooms (from coconut leaves), and cement bricks.
Kosala is one of the beneficiaries of the partnership between RYTHM Foundation and WDC that supports the VTC to help provide various capacity building and skills training to Sri Lankan youth such as carpentry, cement brick making, and sewing.
WDC’s chief executive officer Sashi Stephen said Kosala enjoys his daily activities at the centre. He starts the day with morning prayers and is always ready to assist others.
“His confidence level has increased. He takes part in various activities such as dance and drama. He also participates in sports and was selected to join the cricket team. He is now the captain of the youth club’s volleyball team,” she said.
His achievement impressed his instructors at the centre and he was soon selected as one of the 12 trainees for job training as a waiter.
“Kosala outshone his peers through his eagerness to learn new things and improved his communication skills significantly. After completing the six months training, he began on-the-job training at the WDC’s Sthree café,” she said.
Kosala’s daily responsibilities include greeting and serving customers, arranging plates, cups, and cutlery, and maintaining the cleanliness of the café.
Today, Kosala is able to earn an income for himself and financially contribute to his family.
“I am very proud to see my son who is able to independently function at home and within society. Having the opportunity to complete his education, acquire valuable skills at the VTC, and secure a livelihood through the Sthree café, Kosala has proven that when given the right support and opportunity anything can be possible,” his father said.