Ragik: the boy who smiled and stole our hearts
Today our team of IKEA co-workers was welcomed to the rural Indonesian village of Sukamurni, where Save the Children is helping 25 rural families care for children with disabilities.
The village chief, Pak-Masri, told us that this community was voted West Java’s best village in 2010. It is home to about 8,000 people, most of them farmers who make a living from growing rice, tea and vegetables.
It is also home to Ragik, a 6-year-old boy who was born with Cerebral Palsy and, until recently, could not move his legs or hands at all.
Cerebral Palsy is a physical disability caused by damage to the brain. His mother invited us into her home today and told us how her husband left her after Ragik was born. She had to stop working just to take care of her baby. She struggles to care for her son on the RP 300,000 (€19) she receives in support each month (that is just $30 Singapore dollars, or about 78 Malaysian Ringget).
Three months ago, a volunteer from Save the Children spotted Ragik. The boy could not move. He just lay curled up in ball.
There is no cure for Cerebral Palsy but, with therapy, mobility can be much improved. With help from Save the Children’s community rehabilitation support programme, Ragik’s mother has been learning how to do exercises with her son. The therapy has made a big difference! Now, not only he can move his legs and hands, but Ragik is also able to respond to others when his name is being called.
Ragik was lying on a blanket on the floor when his mother was telling us her story. Tim got down on his knees and sang Ragik a song. We were all thrilled to see Ragik smiling and laughing in response.
After saying goodbye to Ragik and his mother, we went to a second home to meet Shanti, a 16-year-old girl who is deaf. Her biological father left her mother when she was still pregnant, but today Shanti is surrounded by a warm family—her mom, her stepfather, two siblings and a grandmother.
Shanti’s speech is impaired due to her disability, and she can’t communicate well with other kids in the community. But she is a talented artist and, thanks to Save the Children, Shanti had the opportunity to attend a four-day community art course. She proudly showed us her big, bright drawings of Disney princesses, and we were all impressed. The course has given Shanti new confidence, and she is also working on improving her speech.
Next, we travelled to the town of Garut to visit the Pasanggrahan 3 Primary School. A representative showed us around the school compound and let us have a seat in a classroom. I had flashbacks of being a kid again!
We were joined by parents and children with disabilities. We learned that, thanks to the IKEA Foundation, a new classroom is being built on a piece of land behind the school. It will be used to help parents develop the skills they need to care for children with special needs. They will learn how to deliver therapy and can use this space to practise with their children. This is the first such project in West Java, and Save the Children hopes that others schools in the area will follow this example and set up similar programmes. We toured the new rooms under construction and were really happy to hear that the parents we met would be able to start using this space by the middle of June.
Our travels on this journey have not always been easy—we have had some long drives, late nights and some challenges along the way—but our team has really been working together. Some of us take pictures while others take notes, and we always support one another in writing our blogs each day. I am really glad to be seeing how our contribution to the Soft Toys for Education campaign is helping people here in Indonesia.