DFN Project SEARCH is celebrating this year’s Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week after successfully supporting another individual into the world of work.

Sarah-Jayne Mawdsley is a Pharmacy Assistant Apprentice at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.

Sarah-Jayne, who was diagnosed with Mosaic Down Syndrome as a child, is one of the many graduates who have thrived from taking part in DFN Project SEARCH’s transformative transition to work programme.

The Engage to Change Project SEARCH programme in Bangor, with host employer Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, began in September 2017, providing interns with a one-year transition to work programme in their final year of school or college.

Securing a full-time job has been life-changing for Sarah-Jayne, allowing her to make new friends and reach her full potential.

Sarah-Jayne said: “I’m just really happy that this has happened to me. A year ago, I never thought I’d get here and it’s a big deal for me. If it wasn’t for DFN Project SEARCH then I wouldn’t be here at all.

“When I was younger, I had all these doctors saying to me that I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that. I was diagnosed with Mosaic Down Syndrome, so that’s why they were saying that I couldn’t do it, but I’ve proved them wrong, and it just feels like I can do anything that’s possible for me to do.”

Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week is an important time to raise awareness for all people living with Down’s syndrome. This year’s theme and call to action is for  every person with Down’s syndrome to tell the world “We Decide,” demonstrating that all people with Down’s syndrome should have full participation in decision making about matters relating to or affecting their lives.

As well as learning valuable communication and IT skills, Sarah-Jayne from Caernarfon is now better at managing her own money and is also taking driving lessons as she enjoys a more active social life.

Sarah continued: “My favourite part of my job is that everyone supports each other, and I like being a part of the team.

“I like that I have built a lot of confidence and can now do tasks that I didn’t see myself doing before such as answering the phone and serving customers.

“This job has changed my life because I am getting out of the house, working full time and I am very proud of myself.

“I am more confident speaking to people I don’t know and have been practicing my Welsh with customers.

“I have made many new friends, sometimes I will meet up with my colleagues and we will go for food or go to the cinema on the weekend.

“My whole family are very proud of what I have achieved and have supported me throughout the whole process. They are really happy about how well I have fitted into the team and how I have grown in confidence to be able to hang out with my friends in my spare time.”

The programme is part funded by the Engage to Change project through the National Lottery Community Fund and Welsh Government, and is a collaboration between supported employment organisation Agoriad Cyf, host employer Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, research partner Cardiff University, educational institution Coleg Llandrillo Menai, Engage to Change lead partner Learning Disability Wales, and DFN Project SEARCH.