A Nigerian immigrant who was stunned to see someone with Down syndrome working the aisles of a Kanata dollar store has snagged an award for his documentary about a program helping special needs students get jobs.
“Back in Nigeria when I was a child growing up, we would stone these type of people,” said Wisdom Sanni, who came to Canada in 2008. “Families who had kids with Down syndrome would keep them isolated and hidden away. So it was interesting to see them in a public setting exchanging and mixing with other people.”
Inspired by what he saw, Sanni followed the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s Adaptive Learning Program for three months to create “The Genius in Me,” a short film for his documentary production class at Algonquin College. In June he received an award from the board for his work on the project.
“When I started the documentary it was hard for me because I was standoffish because of my upbringing,” he said. “But after one week with them I had a different view.”
“With proper training, people with Down syndrome can contribute greatly to the community. They want to be creative and they wan to do something. They don’t want our sympathy.”
In the adaptive learning program students learn how to talk to customers, their boss and work in an office, along with other life skills, such as learning how to cook and garden for themselves.
In the process of making the film, Sanni said, he made lots of friends and now feels even more comfortable in Canada. “Because of this documentary people want me to come by their place and have a barbeque,” he said.
“I’ve learned so much and I’m happy that I’m in this part of the world,” said Sanni, “where all you need is just to think something and you can do it.”