Sayap Ibu Foundation

Six sightless children with swollen heads, out of fourteen children between the ages of three and 14, were lying weakly on mattresses on the floor. Others sat in wheelchairs with their heads lolling around and hands flapping uncontrollably. They are children with mental and physical disabilities: hydrocephalus (water on the brain, which causes the brain to swell with fluid) and cerebral palsy (brain damage due to oxygen deprivation, infection and physical trauma, during or after pregnancy).

Most of them had been abandoned by their parents in hospitals as Agnes Winarti writes.

The hospitals or the city’s social affairs agency then brought them to the Sayap Ibu Foundation, which runs an orphanage and rehabilitation center for disabled children abandoned by their families.

The foundation, which was established in 1955, currently cares for more than 100 abandoned children in Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Banten.

“Most of them were unwanted since pregnancy,” 63-year-old Trusti Moelyono, who has run the Jakarta branch for 10 years, said.

After finding that mixing the normal and disabled children in the same orphanage was unhealthy, Trusti decided to build another orphanage for the disabled children alone. “They should not be in the same home as the normal children are held back while the disabled ones receive less care.”

Since 2005, Trusti has chaired a new branch of the foundation in Banten, which treats abandoned disabled children not only from Greater Jakarta, but also Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi; West Nusa Tenggara; Lampung; and Medan, North Sumatra.

Many of the children were born disabled due to failed abortions or malnutrition. “The mothers tried to abort them by taking traditional herbs or having special massages.”

Trusti said that the cost of treatment for each child in the Banten orphanage per month was about Rp 4 million. The foundation spends about Rp 40 million a month on the orphanage’s operations, plus annual rent of Rp 30 million.

All of the expenses are covered by donations from the public.

The foundation is currently receives free treatment for the children in West Jakarta’s Fatmawati Hospital and East Jakarta’s Budi Asih Hospital. The children also received hydrotherapy treatment from the Care of Disabled Children (YPAC) organization in South Jakarta and the Korps Veteran Cacat Indonesia in Central Jakarta.

Hydrocephalic children also receive herbal treatment at the Bintaro IMC Hospital.

There are two nurses for every three children, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are a total of nine nurses and three volunteer on-call doctors. “It’s an effective way of creating deeper emotional bonds between the children and their nurses, rather than hospital-style eight-hour shifts.”

Nurse Tini, who has been acting as a mother to the disabled children for more than 13 years, said she was very close to the children, and vice versa.

“They cry and sometimes they get fevers if I take a night off without saying goodbye,” said the 35-year-old Tini, adding that she often stayed up late or canceled her leave when her children were sick.

Some people might think that disabled children are unable to feel or think. Tini’s and Trusti’s years of experience in handling these children proves otherwise.

Tini said she would never consider giving up her job as one of the nurses despite only receiving a monthly salary of Rp 450,000.

Trusti said the foundation got no help from the city administration or the government. “Disabled children are not a priority, probably because of the view that they will never be useful to the country.”

However, despite the expense and lack of government support, she said that the joy in the children’s eyes was enough to encourage her to keep on going. “I’m really happy to see them smiling after they recover from surgery.”