The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Sri Sujiati wiped off the perspiration from her daughter Amelia's forehead with a towel.
She was waiting for Amelia's turn to play bocce, a game similar to lawn bowling, at the soccer and bocce invitational for mentally disabled people organized by Indonesia Special Olympics (SOIna) at the Ragunan Sports Arena, Ragunan, South Jakarta, on Saturday.
"I don't know what time Amelia will start to play. I can't wait to see and support her playing," said Sri, sitting outside the 3-by-18 meter bocce field.
Amelia, 11, was representing her region, East Kalimantan, in the bocce tournament.
Physically, the girl looks like other children. She likes playing and chatting with her teammates.
"Amelia is physically normal. But when she was eight, I knew there was something wrong with her. She couldn't read well in second grade of elementary school and she failed every test," said Sri.
She said that Amelia's friends deserted her daughter and some teachers were unkind to her.
"I was at my wit's end. Then the headmaster told me to send Amelia to a special school. I couldn't face the reality that my daughter was disabled and I couldn't send her to such a school.
"I was ashamed. I was crying all day. What would people think about my family and me?" said Sri.
She then discussed the problem with her friends and they convinced her to send Amelia to a special school.
It was the right decision. Sri said that Amelia's new teachers and friends were kind and helpful. "Amelia can now read well. For the last two years, she has played bocce and represented East Kalimantan. I'm very proud of her. I don't feel ashamed anymore," Sri said.
Amelia is just one among 120 mentally disabled players from eight provinces - South Sumatra, Riau, Bangka Belitung, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan -- participating in the national Special Olympics one-day tournament.
SOIna chairwoman Pudji Hastuti said that the tournament was intended to replace the 2007 national championships, which had been canceled due to budget constraints.
"To hold a large-scale national championships, we would need between Rp 300 billion (US$32 million) and Rp 400 billion. We don't have that sort of money as it was spent on this year's Special Olympics in Shanghai. We only have Rp 25 million, but that's enough for a small tournament with two events like this," said Pudji.
SOIna national director Jack Ospara said that the tournament was also part of the organization's program to prepare and select athletes for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
"At this year's Olympics, we only participated in three events -- track and field, badminton and table tennis. We hope that we can participate in at least five events in the next Olympics," said Jack, adding that Indonesia took nine gold, nine silver and four bronze medals at the 2007 games.
This tournament is good for motivating disabled people. We hope that wealthy parents will make donations to help us organize competitions to prepare us for the Olympics," he said. (trw)