In the third world country of Indonesia, those unfortunate enough to suffer from a physical or mental handicap have a very bleak future. Appropriate assistance and education are extremely difficult to find and to afford, especially if the person in need is from a poor background. Ibu (Mrs.) Sylvia Djumnadidjaja founded Nur Abadi, a school for handicapped children, in 1988. Since then she has devoted her life to making a difference in the lives of many children.
The youngest of Ibu Sylvia’s six children requires special needs, and in 1986 she and her husband discovered that many other children were in the same position. These kids were not being educated, either because of high costs or mere lack of availability of schools. Although 2% to 3% of the Indonesian population has special needs, it is considered by many to be a spiritual sickness, and thus can be easily neglected. Understanding this, Sylvia and her husband opened Nur Abadi, which started out with only nine children. Their aim was to provide schooling for those less fortunate.
A year after the school was founded, Mr. Djumnadidjaja passed away. Ibu Sylvia was left to steer the school alone, and has now expanded Nur Abadi to over 100 students. Sylvia lives in a house on the school campus in Jakarta (6 08 S, 106 45 E GMT +7), and teaches occasionally in the classrooms. Although she is Muslim, as can be seen by the headdress she is wearing, the students at Nur Abadi are of all religions. Ibu Sylvia feels it is important to have religious integration within a school. She clearly focuses on helping the students, not on religions or backgrounds.
Of the children at Nur Abadi, 70% are mentally handicapped, and 30% are deaf or mute. Ages of the students range from 4 to 27, and grade level is determined by ability. Students are asked to pay between Rp5,000 ($0.50) and Rp50,000 ($5.00) per month for schooling. The cost for each student depends on the financial ability of the family. Ibu Sylvia explained that the money was not important to her; she just wanted the children to be able to attend school and to learn.
At Nur Abadi the students are taught skills such as embroidery, tapestry and weaving. The hope is that the children will acquire lifelong skills that they will be able to use after leaving school. Ibu Sylvia dreams of building up Nur Abadi and creating a work place for handicapped people. However, all of this is too expensive.
A truly compassionate and inspirational lady, Ibu Sylvia Djumnadidjaja has given many children hope for the future.