Topic: Inclusivity 14 Nov 2016
Author: Neil Cubley

What happened when a woman with Down syndrome gave a speech to prisoners?

When Mei Lin Yap gave a speech about overcoming limitations to prisoners at Mountjoy prison she got 5 standing ovations. Mei Lin has Down Syndrome. Picture credit Naoise Culhane.

Mei Lin and Helen pictured at Bank of Ireland offices in the IFSC Dublin. Photo: Naoise Culhane.

3 MIN READ

Mei Lin Yap worked as a volunteer for Special Olympics Ireland from 2009 to 2013. As part of her role with Special Olympics, she gave talks to prisoners in both Mountjoy and Wheatfield prisons relating to her life experiences as a woman with Down Syndrome.  Here is the speech she gave which got five standing ovations from prisoners.

“Hello my name is Mei Lin. And I have Down Syndrome.

I was about 14 years old when my Mum told me I have Down Syndrome. I was really upset. I didn’t have a clue what having Down Syndrome would mean to me. At first I thought it might be a physical disability which would affect my body and prevent me from moving.

I felt confused. I had so many questions. My mum Aine explained to me that I was born with it and that as a result I have an intellectual disability which means I have difficulty learning and may always need extra support in certain aspects of my life.

Although it was devastating at the time and (I cried a lot). I have now come to terms with who I am.

I attended St. Tiernan’s Community School and made many friends there. I successfully completed my leaving certificate in 2007 and went on to take a Post Leaving Cert course in Business Technology with Marketing which I completed in 2008 gaining 9 Merits, 1 Distinction and 3 passes. I am delighted with my results.

My family have always been supportive and have always encouraged me to try my best to do everything.

I started swimming when I was four years old and I am a good swimmer now. Butterfly is my strongest stroke. I have represented Ireland in the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championship in U.K., South Africa, Ireland and Portugal and I intend to train hard to qualify for the next Down Syndrome World Swimming Championships in Tai Wan.

I am a member of special Olympic clubs in athletics, basketball and swimming. I have been part of the Irish Team in the Special Olympics European Youth Games in Rome, Italy in 2006.

I also competed in Special Olympics at National level in Swimming, athletics and basketball. A few weeks ago I was in a basketball competition in DCU where my team “the South Dublin Sports Club” won silver medals.

I recently went to Wales to participate in a friendly competition in athletics against a Welsh Special Olympics club. My events were long jump, 200 m run and a relay. I won a bronze medal for the long jump. The medal that I am most proud of is the gold I won when I came first in the 200m run and would like to point out this is my first time getting gold in this event. I have got gold before in athletics but for shorter races so this medal is special to me. I am proud to say I got gold in this event.

In October 2008 I started as a student in Trinity College taking a two year course in Certificate in Contemporary Living. I love being a college student.

I live with my mum and she goes to work at 7:30 a.m. So I get myself organised and travel to and from college myself. I joined the trampoline club in Trinity and although I sometimes find it hard to make conversation with other students I enjoy the club and I think I am quite good at trampolining so I always make an effort to approach them.

I have been away with the club to Cavan for a weekend. My mum took a lot of persuasion to agree to it. During that weekend I got an insight into the social side of student life – the crazy games and a lot of alcohol.

Needless to say I didn’t drink and didn’t participate in any inappropriate behaviour.

I have also been to the cinema and to a night club with members of the trampoline club.

As you can see, I have a full and exciting life and although it has been a challenge, I am very proud of my achievements. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

Mei Lin Yap

How we met Mei Lin

Mei Lin Yap completed a 12-week work placement with our Retail Credit colleagues, in 2015, based in the IFSC in Dublin. She is now part of a team developing a new course called ‘How to Support People with Disabilities’ in Trinity College Dublin.

 

Mei Lin Yap Bank of Ireland

Mei Lin Yap. Picture credit Naoise Culhane.

Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Following the Special Olympics World Games in 2003, during which 900 Bank of Ireland volunteers  coordinated the host town programme, the Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities was established by Trinity College. In 2014, our Bank of Ireland Credit & Market Risk Division became a formal Business Partner of the Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities at Trinity College, Dublin, committing to providing work placements for intellectually disabled students like Mei Lin.

In November 2016, Bank of Ireland hosted the launch of a new Business Partners programme for the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities, which promotes inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

Find out more

Read more in our Responsible Business Report 2016.

Picture credit: Naoise Culhane.
Topic: Inclusivity 14 Nov 2016
Author: Neil Cubley

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