New Zealand Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia
New Zealanders support Indonesian families with blind children
Indonesian mum’s Prima (mother of Baquis), Maria (mother of Kesia and Lena), Rina (mother of Anisa), and Kiwi mum Amy (mother of Joe), all have being a mum in common, but they are also all mothers of children who are blind.
Parents of young visually impaired children in Indonesia face huge isolation, but that is all about to change with the formation of a support group called Balita Tuna Netra-Parent Support Group (BTN-PSG). Balita means birth to five years. Tuna netra means blind. The aim is to provide a “buddy” system for families with blind children, says Amy Headifen who has been the driving force behind the group.
“In my darkest moments I often thought of other mothers in Jakarta, in the same situation as mine but without the background or experience. Having worked with developmentally delayed children as a speech language therapist I knew the importance of early intervention and the impact informed mothers can have on their child’s development and acceptance in society.”
“In essence it’s a networking initiative linking families to families, ideally within neighbourhoods. The “support” families, those like us, with an older blind child will offer hope, a listening ear, a role model, and reading materials for the parents of newly diagnosed under 5's.
“Our slogan is “jadilah mataku, genggam tanganku”, which translates as, “be my eyes, hold my hand”, says Amy, who was invited to speak at a medical conference recently that focussed on blindness in babies. Ophthalmologists and paediatricians from all over Indonesia attended the conference held in October.
Amy’s brief was to share her insights into being the mother of a blind child and introduce BTN-PSG.
“The critical link was getting doctors in the loop so they can refer families to our group so the conference was timely.”
The response and feedback from the medical profession was overwhelming, says Amy.
“They are right behind our group and are eager to have it established throughout Indonesia.”
New Zealand neonatal expert, and professor of Paediatrics at Otago Medical School, Dr Brian Darlow, was a keynote speaker at the conference.
“His advice is significantly impacting neonatal care here in Indonesia and he is very supportive of the BTN-PSG initiative.”
The Perkins Institute for the Blind in the United States has funded two books; Teaching the Sensory Impaired through Play, and Helping Children who are Blind.
“Both are in Bahasa Indonesia and are amazing manuals for parents. These books will be included in the information pack each family is given.”
The group is now formalising itself as a charitable organisation. You can track their progress on Facebook: balita tunanetra or phone Amy on HP: 0811 960 547.