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Katharina Soehardi : Untuk Anak-anak Berkebutuhan Khusus

Indonesia – English

Oleh Kornelis Kewa Ama

KOMPAS.com – Perjalanan hidup Katharina Soehardi relatif unik. Semua yang dia kerjakan bisa dikatakan tanpa direncanakan sebelumnya, tetapi dilaksanakan dengan penuh dedikasi, pengorbanan, dan rasa syukur. Dia bertekad melakukan pengabdian sosial demi masa depan anak bangsa sampai akhir hidupnya.

Belakangan ini Katharina mengasuh anak-anak berkebutuhan khusus (ABK). Sebanyak 26 anak berkebutuhan khusus ditampung di Panti Asuhan Bhakti Luhur di Waikabubak, Sumba Barat, Nusa Tenggara Timur. Selain itu, masih ada 78 ABK lainnya yang berada di rumah keluarga masing-masing dan secara rutin dikunjungi Katharina.

Ketika ditemui di Panti Asuhan Bhakti Luhur, November lalu, biarawati Katolik ini terlihat sangat sibuk. Ada banyak tugas menanti Katharina, seperti mencuci pakaian 26 anak panti, menyediakan makanan, menyetrika pakaian mereka, mengepel lantai, merawat tanaman di halaman panti, sampai membuat tahu dan tempe yang akan dijual anak asuhannya. Meski dibantu dua rekan biarawati dan delapan tenaga pendamping yang direkrut dari warga sekitar lokasi panti, mengatasi 26 anak dengan berbagai jenis kebutuhan khusus yang berbeda-beda bukanlah pekerjaan mudah.

Salah satu peristiwa yang sering terjadi adalah kunci-kunci kamar panti hilang mendadak, gagang pintu patah, atau kursi-kursi dan mainan anak-anak berserakan. Sarana dan fasilitas itu dirusak oleh anak-anak saat mereka sedang marah.

”Beginilah rutinitas kehidupan kami. Setiap kali kami merapikan ruangan, sebentar lagi berantakan di mana-mana. Meski sebagian dari mereka sudah berusia 13 tahun, masih membutuhkan waktu untuk proses penyadaran,” cerita Katharina.

Perempuan asal Blitar, Jawa Timur, ini menuturkan, semula dia tidak paham mengenai panggilan hidupnya. Pada 1980, Katharina tiba-tiba ingin bergabung dengan biarawati Katolik. Padahal, orangtua dan sanak keluarga Katharina menganut kepercayaan lain.

Setelah bergabung dalam biara induk di Malang, dia lalu dipercaya merekrut remaja di Sumba untuk masuk Institut Pastoral Indonesia (IPI) Malang. Saat itu, perguruan tinggi yang mendidik guru agama Katolik tersebut kesulitan mendapatkan mahasiswa baru.

”Ternyata, di lapangan saya menemukan banyak anak-anak berkebutuhan khusus. Kenyataan ini lalu saya sampaikan kepada pimpinan biara di Malang. Akhirnya panti asuhan ini hadir (di Sumba) pada 1998,” katanya.

Katharina kemudian berjalan dari satu kampung ke kampung lain untuk mencari anak berkebutuhan khusus. Dia juga memberikan informasi melalui gereja setempat mengenai perawatan ABK di panti asuhan itu. Banyak anak berkebutuhan khusus ditemukan Katharina, sebagian lagi diantar langsung oleh orangtua mereka. Umumnya mereka berasal dari keluarga tak mampu. Jika anak-anak ini dibiarkan bersama orangtua masing-masing, mereka tidak akan tertolong.

Sampai 2010, yayasan itu sudah merawat 157 anak. Sebagian di antaranya sekarang sudah mandiri (berkeluarga), kembali kepada orangtua, bekerja di sejumlah yayasan, dan sebagian lagi sedang kuliah. Semua kegiatan mereka ditanggung Yayasan Bhakti Luhur dan para donatur. Yayasan yang berkantor pusat di Malang ini berupaya agar para ABK bisa hidup mandiri.

Di Panti Asuhan Bhakti Luhur, anak-anak itu diajari menjual tahu dan tempe, menjaga kios panti yang menyediakan berbagai bahan kebutuhan pokok, dan memelihara ternak. Menurut Katharina, sebenarnya lebih banyak lagi ABK yang perlu ditampung di panti. Namun, karena keterbatasan ruangan, tenaga, dan biaya, anak-anak berkebutuhan khusus itu terpaksa tetap tinggal di rumah bersama keluarga mereka.

Diarahkan untuk mandiri

Katharina mempelajari, menganalisis bakat, kemampuan, dan keterampilan dari setiap ABK. Anak-anak berkebutuhan khusus yang cukup cerdas didorong untuk melanjutkan pendidikan sampai ke perguruan tinggi. Sedangkan mereka yang kemampuan intelektualnya sedang, diarahkan belajar di sekolah menengah kejuruan dan mereka yang tidak mampu diberikan pendidikan nonformal.

Anak-anak itu mengikuti pendidikan sampai tingkat menengah pertama di Waikabubak. Untuk pendidikan tingkat menengah atas, biasanya mereka lanjutkan di Malang.

Selain mengurus anak-anak di panti dan mereka yang berada di rumah orangtua masing-masing, Katharina juga mengumpulkan anak-anak yang menderita bibir sumbing, hydrocephalus (pembesaran kepala akibat penumpukan cairan), serta bayi yang tidak memiliki dubur (atresia ani) di berbagai desa. Dia mengupayakan agar mereka bisa menjalani operasi untuk mengatasi penderitaannya.

Untuk anak-anak berkebutuhan khusus, pemerintah memberikan bantuan melalui panti berupa makanan tambahan, alat keterampilan, dan ternak. Namun, bantuan para donatur belum mencukupi untuk memenuhi semua kebutuhan para ABK.

”Bayangkan, untuk satu anak di tingkat SMP dan SMA kami harus mengeluarkan biaya Rp 5 juta-Rp 20 juta per tahun. Kalau ada 26 anak di panti dan 78 anak di luar panti, biaya yang harus kami tanggung menjadi cukup besar. Meski demikian, kami tetap melayani dengan senang hati,” kata Katharina.

Untuk itu, anak-anak selalu diajari hidup sederhana dan menghargai setiap pemberian dari pengasuh. Mereka tidak memiliki telepon seluler, tidak dibekali uang jajan, dan harus menjaga dengan cermat semua fasilitas yang diberikan.

Katharina menuturkan, banyak masalah menimpa anak-anak di desa-desa terpencil. Orangtua mereka pasrah atas kondisi anaknya. Mereka tidak mempunyai kemampuan finansial untuk mengobati sang anak dan tidak mempunyai keterampilan merawat agar anaknya bisa mandiri.

Di Panti Asuhan Bhakti Luhur, anak-anak itu dididik untuk mandiri dan bersatu sebagai saudara. Tidak ada pembedaan anak berdasarkan suku, agama, ataupun golongan tertentu. Anak-anak makan satu meja dan tidur satu kamar dengan para suster pendamping.

Menurut Katharina, pembentukan mental, watak, dan karakter mereka harus mendapat perhatian. Dengan demikian, di mana pun mereka berada, anak-anak itu akan mampu menempatkan diri dengan baik.


Katharina Soehardi : For Children with Special Needs

KOMPAS.com – Katharina Soehardi lives quite a unique life. The statement is not without reason. Almost all of her activities flow with no need of too much-detailed planning. However, all are executed with great dedication, sacrifice and gratitude. She offers herself fully to serve the future of the nation’s children until the end of her life.Lately, Katharina cares for children with special needs (anak berkebutuhan khusus = ABK). As many as 26 ABKs are accommodated in Bhakti Luhur Orphanage in Waikabubak, West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. Additionally, Katharina also routinely visits other 78 ABKs in their family home.When we paid her a visit last November, this Catholic nun seemed to be at the peak of her activity. There are many tasks waiting for Katharina, such as doing laundry for 26 orphanages, cooking for them, ironing their clothes, mopping the floor, taking care of yard plants, to making tofu and tempe to be sold by children she cares for.Although there are already two fellow nuns and eight supportive local workers helping her, coping with 26 children with various kinds of special needs is not an easy task.
One of the most frequently happened is the sudden lost of room keys, broken door handles, or scattered chairs and toys everywhere. The cared children usually damage toys and facilities when they are in a not-so-good mood.“These are our routines. Every time we tidy up the room, soon there will be a mess everywhere. Although some of them are 13 years old, they still need more time to be responsible.” says Katharina.This lady from Blitar, East Java, said, originally she was not aware of her vocation. In 1980, Katharina suddenly wanted to join the Catholic nuns. Despite of the fact that her parents and relatives embrace other beliefs.After joining the central monastery in Malang, she was then given a task to recruit teenagers in Sumba to study at the Indonesian Pastoral Institute (IPI), Malang. During those times, colleges are having difficulties in getting new students.“Turned out that I found many children with special needs. Next, I conveyed this fact to the monastery superior in Malang. After some time, an orphanage was opened (in Sumba) in 1988.” said Katharina.Katharina then explored the surrounding villages in search for children with special needs. She also spread the information to local parishes about the care for ABKs in the orphanage. During the search, Katharina found many children with special needs. Some of them were brought in by their parents. Most of them come from families with economic difficulties. If these children were to stay with their parents, they would not receive much help.Until 2010, the foundation has taken care of 157 children. Some of them now have their own family, returned to their parents, working in other foundations and some are in college. Bhakti Luhur foundation and its donors fund all their activities. The foundation’s purpose is to help the children become responsible for their own life.At Bhakti Luhur orphanage, the children are taught to sell tofu and tempe, taking care of the orphanage kiosk which sells basic needs and raising the livestock. Katharina added, actually there are more of ABKs need the orphanage’s help. However, since there is not enough space, power and cost those ABKs would have to stay with their families.

Taught to stand on their feet
Katharina learns and analyzes every ABKs talents, ability and skill to determine the best treatment for each ABK. Those with normal intelligence are encouraged to finish their study in college. As for those with intermediate intelligence are directed to specialized mid-school and ABKs with lower intelligence are given non-formal education.Mid school is acquired in Waikabubak and for high school, they have to stay in Malang to continue studying.Other than taking care of the children in the orphanage and those in their parent’s house, Katharina also gathers children suffering from cleft lip, hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid which cause abnormal growth of the head), and babies without anus (atresia ani) from various villages. She gives her best effort so that the children can get the proper medical treatment to overcome their condition.For children with special needs, the government donates extra food, tools and livestock. Even so, the donation is far from enough to cover all the ABKs expenses.
“Just imagine, for one child in mid-school or high-school we need to provide support as much as Rp 5-20 million a year. If there are 26 orphans and 78 outside the orphanage, we need to provide a much larger support. Nonetheless, we continue to serve with all our hearts.” said Katharina.To cope with that condition, children are taught to live a simple life and not taking every gift or donations for granted. They don’t own a cell phone, no pocket money is given and have to carefully take care of all facilities given.Katharina added that many problems befall children in remote villages. Parents do nothing to their children’s condition since financially and skillfully they are very limited to provide better treatment.
At Bhakti Luhur orphanage, those children are educated to take care of their own and unite as brethren. There is no race, religion or certain group discrimination. They all eat on the same table and sleep in the same room with the caring nun.According to Katharina, their mental and character formation must get full attention. Only that way, those children will be able behave wherever they are.

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