Our unforgettable journey in Indonesia has come to an end, but we are leaving with new friendships and memories of people who have touched our hearts. More than anything, I am leaving with a determination to contribute more to our Soft Toys for Education campaign, so that the children with disabilities whom we have met over the last week will continue to get help from Save the Children.
Our journey has not always been easy—we had to drive through heavy rains and terrible traffic at times for hours. By the time we reached our final day of activity with Save the Children, both Fareena and I were very sick with fevers and stomach infections, but little did I know we would both end up in hospital.
We did not want miss out on the final day so, after getting a little more rest, Fareena and I climbed into a car to make the three-hour drive from Garut to Bandung. When we arrived, we discovered that the hotel we expected to stay at did not have our names on the list. Save the Children eventually found another place some distance away, and we had just enough time in our new room to get changed for our last outing—to a live TV talk show on TVRI Bandung! IKEA Indonesia and the IKEA Foundation were the guests.
It took us hours to get to the station in traffic so, when we finally got there, Save the Children ushered us quickly into the recording room. In the room were children with disabilities, together with their parents. We were all introduced to the audience by the host of the talk show.
The participants discussed the Save the Children project that provides family-based care for Indonesian children with disabilities. Parents spoke out and others called into the show. I could not understand what was being said, but Pak Wiwied explained that they were talking about how much they need the help and their fears of what will happen when the programme ends in June 2015. They do not want the project to stop.
There are more than 70,000 children with disabilities in West Java, and Pak Wiwied says the majority never enjoy the right to a “full and decent life.” We witnessed this with our own eyes over the last week. I was so shocked to learn that there is such stigma attached to disability that, when a census is taken, parents will often say they have three children when really they have four—one with disabilities. The disabled child is hidden away.
I can’t understand that mindset, but I understand now that, in part, this happens because people are poor and they have nowhere to turn for help. There are no community services. Parents don’t know how to care properly for a child who has special needs. When Save the Children started its community outreach project in 2012, it worked with seven “hidden children.” Now , two years later, they are working with 1,000 children and their families.
How many more children are hidden away and not getting the help and care they need?
The show ended with a local entertainer singing called “Heal the World”. We went round shaking hands with the children and their parents, thanking them for taking time to come for the show.
Not long afterward, during dinner at a restaurant nearby, Fareena and I started to feel unwell again. Katarina, our guide from Save the Children Netherlands, suggested we check into the hospital immediately. She is very motherly! The journey to the hospital was a great challenge because it was raining and the road was flooded. When we finally reached Advent Hospital Bandung at 10pm, we were both immediately pushed into the emergency room. Soon afterward, we were both admitted to stay the night. I was feeling drained and weak. The amazing thing is that Chye Hin decided to accompany me while Haryati stayed with Fareena—they wanted to make sure that we were never alone throughout the night, even when we were sleeping. The next day we rested a lot and the following day we flew home.
Even though we went through some difficult times, I can put it in perspective because we met people with much bigger challenges. And the IKEA team really looked out for one another all week long. The IKEA spirit of togetherness was with us every day. Haryati and Chye are crazy and fun. We were virtual strangers when we arrived, but we all became good friends.
I am so glad to have made this trip. I always knew that the Soft Toys for Education campaign contributed to Save the Children and UNICEF but, until now, I had no idea how the money was spent. Now I see what a big difference we can make.