AFTER World Down Syndrome Day yesterday, reporter Rebecca Rayner has looked in to how people in Andover with the condition are leading fulfilling lives, becoming pillars of the community, with the backing of tireless organisations.

“All people with Down’s Syndrome must have opportunities to contribute to the community and live valued lives” the event’s website says.

Andover has the framework and support available to help individuals with any learning disability to have fulfilled lives.

Andover & District Mencap is one organisation working toward this goal, with the motto ‘Enabling Choice and Independence’ in mind.

Walking into Duke’s Cafe at the charity’s base, The Wellington Centre, it is clear to see some of the biggest misconceptions about individuals with Down’s Syndrome being broken.

A beaming smile resonates from one particular hard worker Jason Stevens, who loves his role at the volunteer-run cafe.

“I like taking orders and talking to people,” he said, busily looking around for tables to clear.

Elsewhere, Charlotte Portsmouth is a chatty and sociable 32-year-old who volunteers at Mencap every Monday, supported to do so by Sharon Hall. She undertakes vital office tasks such as sending newsletters.

Out of the office Charlotte’s schedule is full. She attends various clubs and activities and loves watching performances at The Lights, enjoying everything from ballet to musicals.

Cat Randle is marketing officer at the charity and also runs Brilliant Drama Group that both Charlotte and Jason attend.

She has noticed performing has helped them both with their confidence, positively impacting their volunteering roles.

The drama group is getting ready for a performance in the Time Ring as part of Andover Rocks Festival.

“Most people’s conceptions of Down’s comes from fear,” Cat says.

“Andover people, I don’t think, are frightened of people with learning disabilities because they are part of the community.

“There are a lot of places in Andover who actually have people with special needs, especially Down’s adults, who are working to their full capabilities having productive and significant lives.

“I think Andover is quite exceptional because of Enham and because of Andover & District Mencap. Between those two polarised forces Andover is a phenomenal seedbed for things. In a way we are like a benchmark community because of the fact we are able to, and actually capable of, what one would hope to be the goal all across the world.”

Another individual leading a varied and full life is is Jeremy Grew who loves to dance – his dream is to perform on Strictly Come Dancing. He once even hijacked a Strictly Tour show in Swindon, bursting onto the stage during his favourite song Footloose to dance in the middle of two of the dancing stars.

Jeremy, who attends the Blue Apple Theatre Group, is also performing at Andover Rocks but away from the limelight, he is also a pillar of his community. He volunteers with the police and is about to start a voluntary role with the fire and rescue service.

He is inspired by the impact he can have on others lives, saying: “I like to get outside and help out people on the street.

“What’s important in my life now is working hard.”

Jeremy’s sister Louisa set up an Instagram account called ‘ups_anddowns’ to showcase all the positive things Jeremy does.

She said: “The reason why I run his Instagram is to make people aware of the fact that people with Down’s Syndrome can have a job and actually live very busy lives.

“Jeremy contributes a lot to our family and to the community.

“Getting out gives him a purpose, his confidence has grown.

“We can’t take him anywhere without him being recognised.

“He is really part of the community.”