Yayasan Mitra Netra, a foundation that aims to improve quality of life for the blind, recently held its second annual festival in Jakarta.
The festival provides an opportunity for young blind and visually impaired students to showcase their new skills and boost their confidence.
From the Indonesian capital, Kate Lancaster attended the event see their talents on show.
From the wings at the blind festival in South Jakarta, one group of students is excitedly waiting their turn.
Each student is holding the shoulder of the student in front of them before they walk onto the stage in formation.
Once on stage this group of teenagers is telling the story of the Princess and the Pea.
It’s a symbolic tale about the power of feeling, rather than sight.
There are around 70 visually impaired students, from young children to teenagers, here to demonstrate their new skills – everything from their English language skills to storytelling, music and mathematics.
The festival first started last year when the NGO, Yayasan Mitra Netra, decided to give the students an opportunity to demonstrate their talents.
BambangBasuki, 66, the chairman of Yayasan Mitra Netra, is also blind.
So he knows how challenging it can be.
Bambang says he first experienced discrimination when he applied to teach at a school and was rejected because of his blindness.
He describes how it felt.
“I felt that there was hope to become a teacher and I had the spirit. I had the goal, I had the hope but it was diminished by discrimination,” he says.
It was the lack of help from schools that inspired Bambang to start Yayasan Mitra Netra.
“The institutions will tell us that, ‘yes, it is your right, but we cannot accommodate your special needs’…That’s when I realised that there should be an organisation,” he explains.
Bambang says that the festival helps to boost the student’s confidence, and of course there are some prizes for the best performances.
Here in Indonesia, facilities for the visually impaired are limited, especially in schools.
“To accommodate the needs for the visually impaired is still our burden,” he says, “Especially as more and more visually impaired go to schools, so more and more students need to be accommodated. That is the challenge.”’
To fill in the gaps, Mitra Netra has partnered with schools and parents of the visually impaired for more than 25 years.
The children are able to learn academic and non-academic subjects at Mitra Netra to complement what they learn in school.
The students are taught how to read Braille, play music, and speak German and English.
Desvita is a ten-year-old student who attends the classes.
She has been learning English through the foundation for six months and is excited to show what she’s learned.
“ My name is Desvita… I am ten… I like playing the piano [and] singing songs,” she says.
Yayasan Mitra Netra also provides education and support to the families of the visually impaired.
They believe that helping the parents to better understand the needs of blind children is a great investment in their future.
Darujah has a 14-year-old son, who has been a student at MitraNetra for 7 years.
In addition to the new skills, she says that Mitra Netra has helped to calm her son’s mood swings and his behavior has improved.
Speaking at the Indonesian Visually Impaired Association anniversary recently, the government promised to ensure the visually impaired receive the same opportunities for education as all students.
Plans for more facilities are in the works, but for now in Jakarta, it’s all about Mitra Netra.
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