Interview with: Pilar Sanjuán, president of Down Cataluña

The association organises many activities such as hiking, sports, music, but how did the idea of an event as intimate as the day for Fent Amics amb Down Catalunya at PortAventura come about?

The idea was put forward in a board meeting in 2008, following a proposal from our organisation in Tarragona, Down Tarragona. Our colleagues were aware that the park was holding an event for another organisation and we liked the idea very much. We thought we could do target the whole of Catalonia and raise awareness amongst the general public. In principle, the main aim was to circulate information and raise awareness.

After several editions (this year was the fifth) we consider it vital that the event allows us to create a space where families throughout Catalonia can come together and have fun in an inclusive and participative environment. It is also the perfect occasion to project an image of people with Down’s syndrome that breaks existing stereotypes, enabling them to be part of society with equal opportunities.

The day of “Vine a PortAventura amb Down Catalunya”, which you use to collect aid for various associations and organisations working with people with Down’s syndrome, has been held for five years now. What aspects did you bear in mind to choose PortAventura as the location for your event?

Having a place like PortAventura close by made the decision easier. But in particular we evaluated the capacity of the park, its wide range of attractions and shows on offer to our families, the opportunity to participate depending on the individual interests and capabilities of each participant, and, above all, the treatment we received right from the start from the managers of PortAventura Business & Events and the PortAventura Foundation who welcomed us with great warmth, helpfulness, interest … and really made us feel at home.

The rapport between presenters Marta Romero and Meritxell Bueno was clear to see by everyone attending the occasion, what made you think of them to host this event?

The actress Marta Romero had recorded a film this summer together with a young girl from Down Lleida (Meritxell Well, the other presenter!). For this reason and also due to having a cousin with Down’s syndrome, she felt close to our cause and our philosophy and had said that she wanted to help and work with us very closely.

As the two already knew each other it was very easy to propose the idea of a joint presentation. This presentation by two people with different skills, which we have been performing regularly at our events, is very close to our philosophy of inclusion and equal opportunities for all.

The relationship that they have with each other has shown us that an inclusive society is possible if we are willing to accept it.

The dance routines prepared by the dance group Chrysali’d 22 were a lovely surprise, but if you had to choose a number one magical moment from the event Fent Amics en PortAventura, what would it be?

I think it would have to be last year’s performance of Mamma Mia! Where boys and girls with diverse abilities danced together in a spectacular demonstration filled with colour and joy. Although we also cannot forget the joint performances by Els Cracs d’Andi and the signer Pep Sala. The truth is that every year we are astounded, showing that all involved have many skills to offer their audience.

And of course, the exclusive show that PortAventura offers every year amazes us even more than the last.  Every spectator can enjoy it and wait eagerly for the surprises of the next one to come!

On a day like this, it goes without saying that thanks should to the volunteers of any association for their hard work, whatever the cause. However, what are the characteristics that Down Catalunya looks for in its volunteers?

The characteristics we look for in a volunteer is someone that values a person for their abilities rather than their disabilities, but also has at the forefront of their mind devotion, respect for people and dedication. For the PortAventura event, patience is of great importance because there are so many families and sometimes it is not easy to meet their needs.

In general, for any kind of volunteering I think the person needs a sense of involvement, respect for everyone, a cheerful disposition, commitment, willingness to learn together … and above all the desire to be a volunteer .

DOWNCAT