Making the first Connections:
It happened organically that I would have the privilege to connect, learn & share my experience & knowledge on special needs on the beautiful island of Bali & later on Java, some say Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Heh, Karen why don’t you come with us tonight & hear about a group here in Marin helping children go to school in Bali”. I became a member of Heidi’s Circle & helped support an elementary age girl attend school. Two years later I was planning a trip to Bali to enjoy the island & meet Komang & her family.
I did some research on the nonprofit scholarship program I had joined. They were part of a larger nonprofit organization that provided services for the elderly, made prosthetics & provided therapy for adults & children with physical challenges. BINGO!
I sent an email to the program known as YPK http://ypkbali.org/ , who helped children with physical challenges & attached my resume. I requested an opportunity to visit their program to connect & learn. My communication was met with an open & welcoming invitation to visit but also a request to interact & share with the faculty. That was it. The door opened & has stayed open for the past 5 years.
The children of YPK came to the center to receive physical & occupational therapy. While they were there they also spent time engaged in educational opportunities that many were denied in public schools on the island due to their challenges.
A team of young, passionate, caring young ladies developed lessons & engaged the children in activities to expand their communication & knowledge. These passionate young woman were learning on the go about how to support children with special needs. They were supervised by a director who believed every child had the ability to learn & should be provided an opportunity to develop in a safe & caring environment.
My first trip to YPK was about observing, listening & sharing knowledge. The teachers wanted to know how to implement an activity where more than one child could participate. I asked them if they had any musical instruments. They grabbed 7 bamboo shakers, we formed a circle & I modeled ways they could teach concepts to a group with these shakers. We played follow the leader. We counted shakes. We shook the shakers fast/slow, high/low & to the right/left. We went around the circle & named animals, transportation, foods to the beat of the shakers.
The children were challenged by ADHD, Autism, Cerebral Palsy & other cognitive plus physical challenges. Their ages ranged from 5 to 13 as well, but they all participated, some with help others without.
The second question the team asked “What is Autism?” I spent a few hours with them sharing characteristics & research on autism & answering their questions.
I returned each year developing workshops around their interests, their questions so their knowledge could expand. Two years ago we expanded our small team of learners to include 8 centers on the island coming together to connect, share and learn. We are now a group of 40 plus. Check out www.globalofferings.org