Down’s syndrome doesn’t define these young, Israeli backpackers
Spence Feingold, TNN Oct 19, 2013
NEW DELHI: The meeting between Israeli and Indian youngsters at India Gate early this week was not your average cross-cultural exchange. Both groups consisted primarily of individuals with Down's syndrome.
The affair concluded the Israeli delegation's two-week long backpacking trip through India and gave them a chance to engage with their peers from a different milieu.
Aimed at illustrating the potential of people with intellectual disabilities, the interaction highlighted how with persistence and support such individuals can become functioning and contributing members of society.
"We wanted to show that people with Down's syndrome are not much different from the rest of us. India is a popular travel destination for Israelis. This gave them, too, a chance to come and trek through the country," said Enosh Cassel who organized the %tour following a successful trip to %Nepal with his disabled brother two years ago.
The 11 young adults—all in the age group of 20-30 years—were each accompanied by one of their siblings. The group hiked through Corbett National Park, Kasar Devi and Nanda Devi National Park and stayed a few nights in Rishikesh. "We trekked to 4,000m above sea level. The group far surpassed my expectations," said Jaman Singh Rawat, a guide who led the excursion.
"At first I was very nervous and wasn't sure how the group would manage on such an intense trek. In the end it was so amazing," stated Inbal Rotman, who accompanied her younger brother who has Down's syndrome. "Although it was a hard climb, the view from top was definitely the best part of my trip," said her brother, Ilan Bar.
Monday afternoon's agenda was much more relaxing as the group met Indians with Down's syndrome while enjoying a picnic and playing games. They seemed to bond quickly, spending time teaching each other Hindi and Hebrew words. "It is obvious they have the same dreams and aspirations as everyone else," Sapna Punn, project manager of Muskaan Vocational Training Centre, said. Punn brought four of her students with Down's syndrome to meet the Israelis. "I had a good time. I enjoyed the food," said Bani Mago (17), a Delhiite with Down's syndrome. The afternoon meeting was followed by a reception at the Israeli Embassy.