PUTU Suriati knows first hand how isolating a physical disability can be. When she was very young, she contracted polio and lost the use of her legs. Growing up housebound, she depended on her family for everything from food to mobility.
At one point, Suriati’s uncle taught her how to paint, so she could sell her paintings to tourists. Business was good up until the mid-1980s when competition drove down Suriati’s profits and left her once again dependent on those around her for physical and economic support. This all changed in 1989 when a woman named Judy Slatum gave her a wheelchair.
With her newfound freedom, Suriati was able to get out and meet other women painters, with whom she eventually founded the Seniwati Gallery. Through exhibiting her work, Suriati began to meet other people who also had disabilities. She soon built up a network of people and they began organising visits, activities and excursions as a way to relieve the sense of isolation that so many felt. As the network grew they realised the need for a formal organisation.
With the assistance of the Bali Hati Foundation, the Senang Hati Foundation was established as non-profit organisation. Senang Hati means “happy hearts” in Indonesian, and their main goal is to befriend and assist people in Bali with disabilities, many of whom are isolated and unsure of how to integrate into society.
Senang Hati helps disabled people by providing assertiveness training to help develop self-confidence, technical assistance to achieve physical independence, and skills training to assist with economic independence. They also aim to increase awareness in the community about the rights of people with disabilities.
The importance of such an organisation cannot be underestimated, as the situation for many disabled people in Bali and Indonesia can be dire. Some Balinese believe that a child who is born disabled suffers from bad karma and is being punished in this life for bad actions in a past life. Thus, many disabled children are considered a disgrace to their family and hidden away. Many do not go to school or receive proper medical care. In addition, government funding for people with handicaps is very limited.
Senang Hati works with volunteers to provide social interaction and teach skills to disabled people, particularly in self-supporting activities like painting, woodwork and sewing. They also provide wheelchairs, housing, physical rehabilitation sessions, and language lessons and operate a home for disabled children named Senang Hati Places.
They are currently in need of many supplies including dry goods, produce, cleaning supplies, clothing and toiletries, and they desperately need funds to update their physio room for effective physical rehabilitation sessions. To assist, you can make a donation or visit their website and view their Wish List to see which items they are lacking.