Life

Disabled celebrate Independence
Day

Wiratni, a patient at the hospital for mentally disabled people in Bangli, Bali, sobbed as she accepted toiletries from a visiting member of the Bali Bloggers Community (BBC) on Indonesia's Independence day last Friday.

"Thank you so much. Don't forget us. Drop by often. I'm so happy you came," she said with tears running down her cheeks.

Wiratni was one of the few participating patients in an event held by the BBC to celebrate Indonesia's 63rd anniversary. The celebration in the hospital was vastly different from the rambunctious celebrations happening elsewhere.

Like Wiratni, many patients of the hospital felt abandoned. Made Lamben, who was allowed to return home a few days prior, was still waiting for someone to come and collect him.

"I've been here for four months. Everyone here is very nice. They said I was allowed to go home but no one came to pick me up," Lamben said.

There was no sad tone in his voice, but his cheerless eyes portrayed an agonized heart.

"I have children and grandchildren, but none of them came to see me," said Nyoman Cagal, another patient.

During the BBC's visit, evidence that the hospital was celebrating Independence day could only be ascertained from the flag-raising ceremony that was held earlier in the morning. The flag hung in the front field of the hospital's 7-hectare confinement area: The lone flag and vast empty landscape spoke volumes of the solitary feeling of many of the hospital's patients.

"It is a holiday, so as soon as the flag-hoisting ceremony is over, most of our nurses go home, leaving only a few us to keep watch," said hospital deputy director Made Sugiharta Yasa while greeting members of the BBC.

During the visit, about 60 members of the BBC handed around cleaning tools, instant noodles, books, clothing and toiletries.

A mini-soccer competition, marble race and music show by the Animo ban livened up the mood, though only a few of the hospital's 283 patients were able to participate, most were resting in the wards due to their illnesses.

According to Made Santiasih, head of the hospital services department, many poor- and middle- income families abandon their sick relatives in the hospital.

He said he was thankful the BBC could visit the patients at the hospital.

"We try to do this every year because it's good therapy for our patients. We are very thankful that there are still people who are willing to give attention and provide them with entertainment," Santiasih said.

Meanwhile, at Semawang Beach, Sanur, Denpasar, physically disabled people from the Senang Hati Foundation were enjoying a day out.

Wayan Parwati, Wayan Aris, Wayan Sugianto and Komang Susanta had fun diving six meters below the surface of the ocean together with 24 expert divers to hoist the red-and-white underwater.

"I'm a little nervous. But I'm happy," said the 27 year-old Wayan Parwati, who lost the use of her legs when she was a child.

As the ceremony began, Parwati took her position holding one end of the flag. The ceremony leader gave the signal to place the flag on a rope tied to an anchor on the lower end and a buoy on the upper end.

Parwati released Indonesia's national flag and it waved in the ocean's undercurrent. The other participants of the ceremony gave a salute and kissed the flag before swimming back to the surface.

"I am so proud. If they're having another event like this next year, I'll definitely join," Parwati said.

Event committee chairman Gentry Amalo was even happier. He said the event had proven that disabled people could achieve things that normal people could not.

"They've actually managed to hoist the flag underwater. This is the most special event that Marine Journalists has ever held," Gentry said, referring to one of the non-governmental organizations that sponsored the event.

"It is the first-ever underwater flag-hoisting ceremony conducted by disabled people in Indonesia," he said.

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