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#OurMasha: Natalia Vodianova launches campaign for 7yo Down Syndrome girl barred from school album

Social media has erupted after parents at a Moscow school demanded that a photo of Masha, a 7-year-old with Down Syndrome, be deleted from the yearbook. In response, Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova has launched a campaign for kids with special needs.

READ MORE: ‘Special needs people don’t need offenders punished’: Supermodel, activist Natalia Vodianova to RT

The story took place in the Russian capital earlier this month. A primary school teacher, Marina, had a 7-year-old daughter Masha, who has Down Syndrome. Marina, who is raising the child alone, reportedly had no opportunity to send her kid with special needs to the kindergarten. She asked school officials to keep her daughter at school for a while so she could keep an eye on her child.

So the girl spent her days in the classroom with 4th grade kids, and when the time came to make the children’s yearbook, little Masha was naturally in the photos.

READ MORE: Outrage as autistic sister of Russian supermodel and activist Natalia Vodianova kicked out of café

However, not all parents were happy to see the picture of the girl with Down Syndrome next to the photos of their sons and daughters. So they returned the album, demanding that the picture of the quiet girl with special needs be removed from the yearbook.

The information was first shared by Olga Sinyaeva, who is a mother of one of the children in the class.

“The reason children were asked to return this album is that many parents can’t bear a photograph of a girl with Down Syndrome, Masha, the daughter of their teacher, beside their children,” wrote Sinyaeva, the author of documentary “Bluff, or Happy New Year.”
On her Facebook page she added a screenshot of a conversation about the photo album between the children in the class. 

Я хочу высказаться на тему девочки Маши, ее мамы-учителя и школьного альбома, который родители требовали перепечатать. Я...

Posted by Natalia Vodianova on Friday, October 23, 2015

“Why did we have to return the albums?” asks one child. “So they can take Masha out,” answers the other.

Sinyaeva later explained to RT that there were many pages in this yearbook titled, “General pictures of the class without Masha.” And on the last page where they put separate portraits of the kids, “Masha’s picture along with the others,” she added.

“I was actually happy about it. At that time I thought it was so great that they accepted her in this way. Because in any case she is in this class all the time. She is part of this class. But then they started complaining to the headmaster.”
According to Sinyaeva, no one openly said that they had returned the albums because Masha has special needs.

The story caught the attention of Russian supermodel and activist Natalia Vodianova, who is known for her charitable activities. Her charity, the Naked Heart Foundation, was founded by the model in 2004. It has since provided children’s playgrounds in dozens of Russian cities and supported children with special needs across the country.

Vodianova posted a photo of herself and her autistic sister, calling people to post photos of their loved ones with special needs under the hashtag #‎НашаМаша‬ (#OurMasha).

“Masha’s mother says she hopes her daughter can go to school, but it’s not guaranteed. And with such attitudes toward Masha she might not even be ready to go to school,” Vodianova later told Russian media.

According to the philanthropist, if every day one person supports a family with a girl like Masha, “then we've done our job.”

“If a child comes up to a girl like Masha and says I want to be your friend - that's so important and so simple. But for such kids that often doesn't happen.”

Vodianova’s touching campaign was largely supported on Facebook. Her post received dozens of comments where people across Russia were uploading touching photos of their relatives with special needs.

“My Alyosha. Down Syndrome,” “Vasya, 16, autism,” My Varya, cerebral palsy,” said the heartwarming posts.