By Magdalena Sztechman
My name is Magdalena. I am a passionate photographer and I have a sister with Down’s syndrome. Ania is now 38 and lives in Poland so naturally this cause is very close to my heart.
I grew up watching my mum running a parent-led, local, non-profit organisation in our hometown in Poland that directly supported children with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities. As a result, throughout my childhood, I attended group and therapy sessions with my sister and my mum all of which were hugely educational.
Since living in the UK, I have missed being a part of that community, but it remains hugely important for me to ensure that my daughters (9 and 5 respectively) understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in society today.
In the spring of 2018, I was lucky enough to be asked to photograph a sweet little girl named Cara who happened to have Down’s syndrome. I was immediately inspired to want to use them to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome. So much so that I decided that I wanted to do another photo session this year.
When I came across Sparkles, I instantly knew that I wanted to lend them my support. To my surprise, 22 families immediately contacted me on the back of my photos to take part in this project!
My plan to support Sparkles is to produce 21 beautiful portraits, which we will use to increase awareness of Down’s syndrome through social media in a campaign that we are naming ‘DownRight Amazing’. I am planning to release one photo a day, for 21 days, beginning on March 1 with the significance of 21 being a representation of the additional copy of chromosome 21 that is inherent in children that have Down’s syndrome.
“When I heard about the campaign that Magdalena was proposing I knew that I wanted Rosalyn to be involved. There are so many negative stereotypes about Down’s syndrome, and I wanted to challenge that. Hopefully this campaign will help people to understand that children with Down’s syndrome are just that – children first and foremost. All children (and indeed adults) are different and have their own strengths and weaknesses – and this is absolutely true of people with Down’s syndrome.” – Emily, mum to Rosalyn
“Since we found out that Jackson had Down’s syndrome whilst pregnant, and the negativity we have faced I am keen to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome in any way I can, and change peoples outdated perceptions. A consultant told me he would “look a certain way” and “struggle to learn anything” … if only she knew how wrong she was! I hope the campaign shows how beautiful and amazing our children are, and that they do not all look the same. Spreading awareness is the best thing I can help to do for my son’s future.” – Emma, mum to Jackson
“I was keen for Emma to be part of the campaign as Emma has been supported by Sparkles since she was 15 months old. Now 5 years old, Emma’s time at Sparkles is coming to an end, but I wanted to do this as a thank you for all the support the charity has given us. Charities like Sparkles can only survive by continued parental support and fundraising. I also really liked the message that was being generated throughout the campaign. The overwhelming feeling from all the parents who have been involved, is just how proud and loved their children with Down’s syndrome are and how each and every one is unique.” – Gabriella, mum to Emma
“I’m hoping the campaign will achieve what we have planned for it to achieve and that is to raise awareness. It’s important to us that Amelia is not held back from anything she wishes to do due to her having Down’s syndrome. We want people to see her for the funny, sweet and sassy girl that she is. She is not her diagnosis.” – Kirsty, mum to Amelia
Magdalena and some of the families were also filmed for ITV News to promote the campaign.