Talented children’s book author and campaigner Jeff Rotmeyer shares his dream of launching a new publishing company, The Book Jar, to fund a new charity to support Hong Kong’s Down Syndrome community.
Eight years ago I was approached by the head doctor of the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association, and he asked me if I could coach a football programme for their participants. I knew nothing of Down Syndrome and I basically repeated the same question back to him. “I don’t know. Can I?,” I asked.
Growing up in Canada, I never interacted with children who had Down Syndrome and again during my time here in Hong Kong and in other parts of Asia, I honestly never noticed people with Down Syndrome. And what a shame that is!
I started to learn more about the syndrome and also how it was viewed in Hong Kong. Until quite recently there were some saddening preconceptions and horror stories about how these individuals were treated. I now know what a blessing it is to be around individuals who are as loving and kind as they are. They possess such an innocent warmth that is very tough to find these days. Simply put, being around people who have Down Syndrome made me a better person.
However, I see many areas in which I could provide them with much greater support, and it is my wish to have this opportunity. The football programme was not rocket science, but we put it together in a way that allowed us to push the players in a controlled and enjoyable manner.
The difference that a simple initiative like this made to them in terms of fitness, interaction, and confidence was astonishing. What seemed simple to us was a big step for some of the participants and the feedback made us realise that we were offering opportunities that they had not had before.
This is why I want to create a new charity called Love 21 Foundation. The “21” refers to the twenty-first chromosome causing Down Syndrome.
The life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome in Hong Kong is extremely low, and it honestly doesn’t have to be this way. I have identified a number of other areas where simple but effective activities could support individuals. I want to create a charity that makes health and nutrition for those with Down Syndrome a top priority from day one.
As we all know, eating healthy isn’t as affordable as it should be. It’s so important that all children, and especially those with Down Syndrome, are eating to sustain health and not just to get full. They need to eat foods that are grown as opposed to manufactured. I want to provide financial help and also guidance from nutritionists from birth.
I also want to have active programmes like football, dance, drumming, yoga, and hiking, as well as many other classes that give our participants a sense of belonging and most importantly many laughs.
I’ve decided to combine this passion that I have for helping the Down Syndrome community with another passion of mine; writing. I’m also a children’s book author and have written quite a few books that are ready to go. My wife, Juliana, is an artist/designer and has illustrated some of these books and designed other products.
Together, we hope to start a company called The Book Jar that will sell these products, donating 100% of our profits to the Love 21 Foundation.
We are currently running a KickStarter campaign hoping to raise enough funds to get this process started. If we reach our funding target, we can get the ball rolling and make big steps towards giving the Down Syndrome community of Hong Kong the very best, because that’s exactly what they deserve.
Click here to view the Kickstarter and help make the dream a reality by donating to this very special cause.
You can find out more about Jeff and his charity work on his blog, where he is actively involved in helping out the homeless in Hong Kong and others in difficult situations.