Imagine bearing the brunt of harsh words and teasing by your peers for something you can’t control. Thirty-one-year-old Chen Wan Yi, who has Down syndrome, went through that as a child.

She said, “When I was in school, they [treated me] differently and sometimes bully, calling me vulgar words, pushed me … I never complained to the teacher. Sometimes, I felt sad.”


Down syndrome is a condition that affects one in 800 live births around the world. It’s not a disease—it’s a genetic disorder that results in “physical growth delays, physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disability, and characteristic facial features,” according to Wikipedia.

Yet, it still remains a social stigma, mostly caused by a lack of understanding of the condition.

Despite the bullying she faced, Wan Yi doesn’t view society in a negative light. She said, “I don’t have problem with people. It doesn’t affect me.”

Wan Yi first knew of her Down syndrome condition after her parents told her. She said, “Mummy and Daddy told me I have Down syndrome. I had difficulty in my studies, but my spelling improved when I was in DSA.”

Down Syndrome Association, DSA, is a non-profit Voluntary Welfare Organisation that extends help to people with Down Syndrome—as well as their families/caregiver—to ensure they can lead normal lives, will be celebrating World’s Down Syndrome Day on March 16 with a campaign at Our Tampines Hub. Themed “Leave No One Behind”, it aims to highlight the lack of understanding within the society about the potential of people with Down syndrome, as well as encourage people to embrace differences and support people with Down Syndrome for an inclusive society.

She also said DSA has helped her “learn my behaviour and to become a better person”.


She added, “Because now in DSA, my friends are also same as me. I don’t get bullied anymore. When I am around them, they treat me in a friendly manner and say nice things about me.”

The truth is, people with Down syndrome are not that different from us—and they don’t feel different either. She said, “Even in public people don’t look at us, they just do their own thing and their own business.”

She now works full-time in the Housekeeping Department at Rasa Sentosa, packing slippers for guests and giving out uniforms to the staff. “I also fold towels and kitchen cloths,” she added. She got the job through DSA.

This wasn’t her first job. She said, “Before this, I worked in Olive Branch Cafe in church. I served customers and interact with them. I also work at Rainbow Cove childcare centre for a little while. I helped the kids to learn alphabets and played with them at the playground. I was an assistant.”

She also worked at a church, doing admin work and packing CDs, as well as at The Rotisserie at Raffles Place where she served food and drinks. She was paid for all these jobs.

But she reckons her favourite job is her current one at Rasa Sentosa because she feels like she’s a part of the family. She said, “The staff friends treat me well. They … don’t talk about anything negative to me.”


She also revealed that she received a long service award last year after working there for five years, and got “a very good bonus this year”.

She recalled an incident that made her tear up: “One year, when I was on holiday, the whole of housekeeping sang birthday song and sent me the video. I felt very touch by it. They said they miss me, I was tearing a bit. The tour people clapped for me.”

Images provided by Wan Yi.