Around the world, kids with Down syndrome face immense challenges: They are denied a quality education, good health care, the chance to work and earn their own money and the right to make decisions about their own lives (WDSD).

Compassion is committed to releasing all children from poverty in Jesus’ name—regardless of their challenges and differences. Each child is treated with dignity and is recognized as a precious child of God. They are given access to education, health care, connection and more.

Today, we want to introduce you to 3 incredible kids with Down syndrome: Melany, Jimi and Ani. Each of these kids with Down syndrome and their families face the challenges and joys of everyday life. They are loved and cared for by their families and Compassion community. Each of their stories is beautiful.

 Come meet our sweet friends!

Meet Melany from El Salvador

A baby girl wearing a striped blue t-shirt. She is in a play pool holding a toy ball.

Jacqueline looked down at her baby girl on the way to the hospital. Just 12 days old, little Melany started to show symptoms of being unwell. Wrapping her in a blanket, Jacqueline kissed her head and handed her over to the doctor.

Pneumonia was the first diagnosis. Jacqueline felt powerless as she watched her baby fight for her survival for twenty long, exhausting days.  As Melany began to improve, Jacqueline felt a sense of relief.

“The world had caved in”

A baby girl sits on a bouncy yellow toy deer. She is laughing and looking to the side.

But amidst her progress, the doctor still had concerns. After further testing, the doctor diagnosed Melany with Down syndrome, plus a related condition that would prevent her from walking.

“I felt frozen,” Jacqueline says. “It was as if everything stopped. The world had caved in. And then I felt so sad.”

The next year was challenging for Jacqueline, coming to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis and navigating depression. “I started to cry whenever I talked to others about her condition,” she says.

Finding her lifeline

After registering at the Survival program at her local Compassion centre, Jacqueline felt a spark of hope. The staff offered a positive outlook for Melany’s future and counselling for Jacqueline.

“When I saw Melany for the first time, tenderness filled my heart,” says Damaris, a staff member at the centre. “But when I saw Jaqueline, I only saw sadness, fear and depression. At that moment, I realized how much Jacqueline needed emotional support and counselling.”

Jacqueline joined the other mothers in the activities that encouraged their babies’ gross motor development, practicing the exercises at home, too.

“Doing the exercises forced me to interact and play with Melany more, which showed me how much she just wanted my love,” says Jacqueline.

The centre also covered the costs for Melany’s private clinic sessions that the hospital referred to her.

Defying her diagnosis

Little girl runs through grass smiling. She is wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

As the months passed, Melany began to defy the diagnosis that she would never walk: She began crawling and pulling herself up on furniture. Jacqueline felt a sense of relief.

“Damaris encouraged me and reminded me that Melany has a purpose and that I needed to trust in God,” says Jacqueline.

When Melany was a year and a half, Jacqueline and Demaris witnessed a miracle—Melany took her first steps! “I felt so much happiness to see her walk,” says Jaqueline. “She is so active now. She not only walks—she climbs, searching for toys!”

Damaris has seen so much change in both mom and baby since they first met.

“I remember when Jacqueline would say to me that she didn’t know why Melany had come into her life,” she recalls. “She felt shame, sadness and depression. But now, Jacqueline says to me that Melany is the most valuable gift that God has given her!”

Meet Jimi from Bolivia

A baby boy sits on a blue blanket with some colourful toy ducks. He is wearing a red sweater.

When Lidia learned she was pregnant with her fourth child, she and her family were elated. With the support of the local Compassion centre’s Survival program throughout her pregnancy, she felt ready and prepared to welcome her new baby.

When the baby finally came, Lidia and her husband, Remberto, were overjoyed, naming him Jimi.

Despair in a diagnosis

The new parents’ joy quickly turned to despair when the doctor told them that Jimi had Down syndrome.

“When he explained Jimi’s condition, I almost fainted. I cried for an entire day, and my husband cried too,” says Lidia.

The insensitive comments from others, even family members and friends, only deepened Lidia’s sadness.

“Why did you let him be born?”

“What did you drink that made him this way?”

“He must be a curse.”

But of all the hurtful things Lidia heard, the most painful was from her own husband:

“He can’t be my son. Who is his real father?”

Words of life that changed everything

A mom with a purple sweater plays with her baby on a blue blanket. He is wearing a red sweater, smiling and playing with toy ducks.

The Survival staff shared a different message with the distraught mom. “They told me not to worry, that Jimi is a blessing. The staff encouraged me and told me to have strength,” says Lidia.

The words of the Survival staff began to penetrate this fearful mother’s heart.

“They told me, ‘God has a purpose for Jimi and a reason for creating him like this. He will be fine.’ That comforted me,” she says.

Each day, Lidia repeated to herself the words of life the staff shared with her:

 “My son is a blessing, and he will be fine.”

As she did, she began to gain strength. She slowly realized what a treasure her baby was in God’s eyes and what a precious gift he was to her family.

The family’s pride and joy

A mother wears a purple sweater and holds her baby giving him a kiss on the cheek.

Today, Jimi is a happy one-year-old. Lidia’s wide smile replaces her tears.

She is committed to ensuring Jimi’s good health by closely following the Survival program’s schedule of medical check-ups and vaccinations.

The Survival staff are also happy to report that the stimulation exercises they do with Jimi have improved his physical development. “He now sits up and crawls,” says Lidia with pride. “He also is trying to say words, and when you talk to him, he smiles.”

Along with the consistent material support, Lidia is thankful for the unconditional emotional support she receives.

“If it weren’t for the Survival staff, I would still be depressed. When they visit me at home, or when I go to the centre, they counsel me, and I forget my worries!”

Today, Jimi is loved and cherished by his whole community, including his father. In fact, the family who once despised and rejected little Jimi now can’t imagine their lives without him.

“Now my son is very loved, not only by his siblings, but also by his father, who realizes he is a blessing for our family.”

Meet Ani from Honduras

Girl wears a blue dress and smiles holding up her hands that are covered in paint.

Eleven-year-old Ani is a sweet, active arts-and-crafts lover who was born with Down syndrome. She is the sixth of eight children. Her arrival has brought an incredible amount of light and joy to the family’s home.

“From day one, she felt loved, included and supported by her classmates and tutors.”

Ani attends the local public elementary school with her siblings, while her single mother, Lorena, goes to work. Growing up with Down syndrome, Ani has sometimes faced exclusion, rejection, stares and mockery from others.

But there was one place that felt different.

When she was five, Ani was registered at the Compassion centre in her rural community. From day one, she felt loved, included and supported by her classmates and tutors.

Girl wears a blue dress and paints on paper in a field. She is turning around to smile at the camera.

Through songs with actions that make her move her arms, feet and body, as well as colourful arts and crafts, games and other activities, Ani has developed cognitively and spiritually.

“We love having Ani with us. She’s very dedicated to her work and has no problem following the tutors’ directions,” said Maritcy, the centre’s director. “Ani is so full of love that during recess, children enjoy being around her and playing with her.”

Receiving life-changing medical care

At the age of seven, Ani attended a medical checkup at the Compassion centre and was diagnosed with a heart murmur.

After the diagnosis, Ani was quickly admitted to a private children’s hospital and bravely went to the operating room. Her heart surgery was a success.

“Provision and blessings have poured over us as a family since Ani was born,” says Lorena. “My daughter is a God-sent gift, and I’m grateful for her life.”

“The greatest adventure of my life”

Girl with a blue dress smiles at the camera reading a book in the doorway in her home.

Some of Ani’s challenges include a speech delay and trouble verbalizing complete sentences. She is not alone. A total of 77 Compassion-assisted children across Honduras live with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other learning disabilities and share in similar struggles.

In light of this, Compassion Honduras launched a three-year critical intervention for mental health and development, aimed to support children with additional needs, including Ani.

Additionally, the Compassion centre provided the resources so that Ani and her mother could meet with a developmental psychologist.

Today, Ani’s speech is rapidly improving. Lorena has scheduled more sessions with the developmental psychologist in the future, and together, they hope to keep seeing Ani progressing and thriving!

“Dealing with a child with special needs has been the greatest adventure of my life. I’m grateful that God picked me as Ani’s mother,” says Lorena.

In Compassion’s program, every child is known, loved and protected so that they can thrive.

Learn more about how personal this is to each child.

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Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips is a Content Specialist at Compassion Canada. She is passionate about pursuing justice and mercy through writing, crafting, music, and sharing stories over a cup of strong coffee.