When Yeni Dewi Mulyani learned of a plan to bring 20 children from the cancer wards of three Jakarta hospitals to SeaWorld in Ancol, she was thrilled to help. It was a cause very close to her heart.
Charity Yayasan Sahabat Bangsal Anak was the driving force behind the trip to the North Jakarta theme park for the brave children of Fatmawati, Harapan Kita and Cipto hospitals.
During Ramadan, the city hosts many buka puasa (fast breaking) events aimed at helping the less fortunate, but organizing a trip for kids in hospitals proved a lot trickier.
Distributing 30 meals to an orphanage and singing songs for an hour is easy compared to the logistics of organizing and transporting 20 children from three cancer wards.
But for Yeni, who takes care of children from Cipto hospital, the long hours of preparation were worth it. Yeni, 37, knows firsthand how important it is for parents of children living with cancer to experience trips away from the intravenous drips and squeaky hospital floors.
Yeni spent two years beside her son Taufan, who, after being diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, died a day before his seventh birthday in April.
Now Yeni returns three times a week to the same hospital where her son bravely fought his disease to give moral support to parents in similar situations.
“Field trips allow the children to forget their health problems for a while,” Yeni said. “For a few short hours they can become normal kids having fun with their friends.
“It’s very important for the children, as well as for their parents, to get a chance to be in touch with the outside world so that they don’t feel excluded.
‘‘My son was too sick to be part of these kind of organized activities, so we couldn’t participate in any. If he was in a better condition I’m sure we would have joined with pleasure.”
Yeni was excited when she learned about the SeaWorld trip from Benny Junito, the chairman and founder of Sahabat Bangsal Anak, which was founded in 2011.
“One of our main focuses is kids with cancer,” said Benny, who volunteered at hospitals before starting the organization. “We always look for volunteers to join us. Our activities include storytelling at hospitals, decorating the kids rooms and organizing field trips.
“It’s amazing to see the excitement in the eyes of the kids. When they found out they could go to Ancol they couldn’t wait.”
For the SeaWorld trip, Benny worked with friend Mohammad Reiza, who helped recruit a team of at least 30 volunteers.
“It’s great to be personally involved in this cause, as you can contribute giving moral support,” Reiza said. “Sharing is good, but sharing with those who need it the most is beyond great.”
Ardana, age 12, has had leukemia since 2009. “I am so happy, the most pleasant part is I get to have fun with my friends,” she said.
Elizabeth Shinta is a 21-year-old dentistry student who has assisted with Count Me In, the BeritaSatu Media Holdings volunteering program, several times in the past year. She said the trip to SeaWorld was a great opportunity to spend time with kids and also make new friends.
“I love children and I would rather spend my time volunteering [for good causes] than in a mall,” she said.
Heri Mulyono, the head curator at SeaWorld Indonesia, hoped the kids walked away with more knowledge about the sea and its rich biodiversity.
“What children like the most when they come, are usually the interactive pools, where they can personally touch the fishes, turtles, starfishes,” he said.