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During the 17th Annual Hamlet Foundation National Awards Ceremony held last week in Johannesburg, Sheri Brynard of Bloemfontein was awarded the President Award for her achievements and work she does in the field of mentally disabled South Africans.

The Hamlet Foundation was founded in 1954 by a group of parents whose children were exempted from normal schooling and today it runs a school for intellectually disabled children, a residential centre for intellectually disabled adults and a protective workshop for intellectually disabled adult workers. Annually, workers and people in the field of the intellectually disabled throughout South Africa are rewarded at a gala night, which also serves as a fundraiser.

Sheri has Down Syndrome and has excelled academically like no other person with Down Syndrome in South Africa. She received her National N3 Matric certificate and went on to complete her N4 and N5 National Diploma in Educare.

Her papers were set and marked nationally and nobody could help her in any way. She also received the highest prestige award from the SA Downs Association, for academic achievement by a person with Down Syndrome, from Hellen Zille.

Sheri has achieved culturally, by being the first person with Down Syndrome to achieve the highest honour in Provincial and National eisteddfods between normal learners.

She has done 90 motivational talks nationally and internationally. She changes people's perspectives of persons with Down Syndrome. She is the ambassador for all people with Down Syndrome in South Africa and serves on the international Down Syndrome board.

Sheri is the only person with Down Syndrome to have a National Educational Diploma where she can pursue her occupation. She is an assistant teacher at a special school.

She also facilitates the self advocacy movement in the Free State.

She has shown that with determination, a positive attitude and a very strong will, one can overcome many obstacles and still reach those goals you set out to achieve. “My mother and my father always expected me to do my best and they supported and helped me to stay motivated every step of the way,” says Sheri.