If you’re a regular reader, you know that Rebel-With-A-Cause is part of a larger project called www.DropMeAnywhere.com where readers choose where I travel to without a plan. This time, the readers have chosen to drop me in Bali, Indonesia. It was there that I had the chance to volunteer with a wonderful organization helping to change the lives of some special people. It’s in Ubud, a town in Bali, and it serves a community that can use all the help it can get; the mentally disabled.
It’s called Sjaki-Tari-Us and it’s a school for mentally disabled children and teens. Sjaki-Tari-Us is the brainchild of Thais and Karen van Harte. Thais and his twin brother Sjaki are the children of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother and, while they grew up in The Netherlands, they visited Bali often as children and adults.
As Thais and his wife Karen had a child, Tari, who was born Down’s Syndrome, they and their friends decided to investigate the quality of special education services while on a visit to Bali. What they found was not great. While there are schools for these kids, the teachers aren’t trained in special ed. and students must meet minimum requirements such as a measured IQ of 55. If they don’t meet the qualifications, they have no opportunity to receive an education.
I visited Sjaki-Tari-Us on King’s Day, a day of celebration in the Netherlands and therefore, a day a celebration at Sjaki-Tar-Us. The early morning was spent in the classroom with five and six year-olds, where they learned how to introduce themselves, how to say the date and worked on writing letters of the alphabet. Beginning in the late-morning, a party was underway with sack-races, ring-tosses and face-painting. Just like other kids, these kids need both structure and physical activity and the staff at Sjaki Tari-Us provides just the right balance.
Thais and Karen founded Sjaki-Tari-Us in 2006 and named it after Thais’ brother, Sjaki, who died in 2002, Thais and Karen’s daughter, Tari, and Us, as in all of us. The first school was located in Singaraja and they soon opened one in Ubud. While the Ubud school is the larger of the two, both schools are still currently operating. The Singaraje school has five full-time teachers, twenty-five smaller children and three teens, while the Ubud school currently has seven teachers, twenty-five to thirty younger students and thirteen teenagers. Interns from Holland work at both schools as part of their university program
Sjaki-Tari-Us provides education to all. Parents can choose to enroll their struggling kids here with the goal of getting them qualified for the special education governmental schools within a few years. If a child does not qualify for the government run schools, they’re welcome to stay at Sjaki-Tari-Us. There is a small, one-time fee for the first school T-shirt and shorts, and then it is free to attend. And if a family can’t afford the initial fee, they won’t be turned down.
The youngest kids – up to eight years old – participate in “Play-Learn Groups” which provide two to three lessons each the morning and include play as part of the educational process, as these kids tend to learn differently than thers. Kids are split into groups depending on their disability and ability to learn and sit still.
The program for teenagers concentrates more on life-skills such as personal hygiene and job training, which they can use working in the on-site restaurant, of which all profits go back to the school. They’re also taught craft skills which are common in Bali and are sold at the Sjaki-Tari-Us gift shop in order to help support the school. Teenagers also have the chance to play sports which helps them socialize, learn teamwork and increase their fitness levels.
Finally, they offer a “Teach the Teacher Program” which educates Balinese teachers on teaching those with mental disabilities. Knowledge is then passed on from teacher to teacher and adds to the wealth of information and understanding about people with special needs.
Sjaki-Tari-Us is supported by the original foundation and the on-site gift shop and restaurant, as well as private donations. While the school is happy to accept school supplies, money is the best gift, as it can be used for a variety of needs from gas for the small shuttle bus which picks up students from further out whose parents have no transportation, to cleaning supplies, to paying the minimal staff in the restaurant, to funding for field trips. And if you’re ever in Bali, they’d love for you to visit one of their schools take a tour or eat at the restaurant. By helping these special people live up to their full potential, the people at Sjaki-Tari-Us are doing important work and all support is greatly appreciated.
To find out more about Sjaki-Tari-Us, and how you can help, visit their website at http://www.sjakitarius.nl/
Also check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SjakiTariUs