Sejuk Hati History

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Made Wijaya

After contracting polio at a young age, Made Wijaya, the founder of the Sejuk Hati Foundation, lost the use of her legs. While house-bound, Made was taught to paint by her uncle, and she was able to make a living selling her works to tourists–until the mid-1980s, when competition made painting unprofitable for Made. Things changed in 1989, when she was given a wheelchair by Judy Slatum. The wheelchair gave her increased mobility, allowing her to leave her parents’ house, and giving her the opportunity to join with other female painters in Bali to form the Seniwati Gallery.

In 2000 Made held an exhibition of her work at the Bali Beach Hotel. At this exhibition Made met a number of other people with disabilities, and this led to the development of an informal network with others suffering from disabilities, which encompassed visits, activities, and excursions. With Vern Cork’s arrival, (an Australian who was similarly a wheelchair user), the program was expanded, and grew to the point where they contacted the Bali Hati Foundation for assistance.

With the help of the Bali Hati Foundation, the Sejuk Hati Foundation was established through a notary as a non-profit organization. In 2003, the foundation moved into a vacant school through a five-year lease donated by a generous American businessman Glen Adams.

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Background

Non-profit organisations such as Sejuk Hati are important in Indonesia, as government funding for handicapped people is limited. Without assistance from the private sector, many disabled Balinese people, including children, remain marginalized, thus limited from benefiting from or contributing to society. In many parts of Indonesia, and certainly in Hindu Bali, having a disabled child is evidence of bad karma.

Many people believe that the child is being punished and a “bad” spirit of a deceased ancestor has been reincarnated in the child. Hence, a disabled child is a disgrace to the family. In the past these children were often hidden away in back rooms, were never sent to school, and received little or no medical care. Attitudes are changing but it is still not uncommon to come upon children, and sometimes even adults, who have been isolated in this way.