When Latifa, 9, was diagnosed with Down syndrome upon her birth in 2011, her mum Meera Al Hosani admits “the first two years were challenging. We did not even know how to provide the basic needs. But we educated ourselves, and with love and pride, we got to where we are today. The love we gave Latifa, she had paid back with happiness, joy and laughter through the years.”
It’s this theme of happiness that helped Al Hosani set a Guinness World Records on November 18. The chief of happiness and a well-being officer at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Al Hosani, 39, created the world’s largest sock word, spelling “happiness” in Arabic using 1,447 socks.
The term and the material, themselves, are closely connected to a condition that is thought to affect 1 in 700 children. Socks are said to resemble the shape of human chromosomes, and since people with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome, it was why Al Hosani turned to them. “The extra chromosome is also called the happiness chromosome,” says Al Hosani, who also has a six-year-old daughter, Shireena.
The record-breaking display took six hours to assemble, and was put up at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. It marks the UAE’s 425th Guinness World Record, of which Al Hosani says: “It was never about being the biggest or the largest. Latifa has always been a source of joy for our family and community, and I wanted to spread this emotion to my society.”
The proud mum notes that her daughter, who is in grade 3 at Sheikh Zayed Academy, has an ear for music and knows her own mind. “She has a taste for classical music and enjoys listening to jazz. She can memorise a song from the first time she hears it. She also loves playing on the piano and singing. It is her morning routine, the minute she wakes up!
“One day, her dad called her Lulu, her pet name, and she replied: ‘My name is Latifa’, showing that she understands that she has her own identity and can express herself.”
Al Hosani says it’s this message, that people with Down syndrome can lead fulfilling lives, which she would like to spread among other families and the community through the socks campaign, which is fittingly named My Name is Latifa.
She also credits the UAE’s encouraging leadership and its affinity to invest in its people. “We have learnt from our wise leadership to always be a pioneer in what we do. So it’s a privilege to be a contributor and part of this accomplishment.
"Being an Emirati contesting alongside two fellow nationals [Omeir Al Mheiri who got two GWR titles for Farthest Wakeboard Ramp Jump and Most Wakeboard Rail Airs; and Khawla Al Romaithi, who set a world record for the fastest time to travel to all seven continents] proves that with persistence and determination we can achieve anything."