Passion makes a tough job feel easier for IBM volunteer in Indonesia

Story of service • Indonesia • September 2013

Rina Jayani Rahmadi
IBMer Rina Jayani Rahmadi is making a difference in the life of hearing-impaired children in Indonesia.

What if you could never hear Mozart? Or, because you could only lip read – and not hear language – you could not correctly pronounce words? Would you feel like you were missing something? Would you be ostracized?

When Ramzy was born, the son of Rina Jayani Rahmadi –
a mother of three and an IBM sales operations professional in Jakarta, Indonesia – he had only slight hearing in one ear. Rina, her husband, and Ramzy were given minimal advice and support on what to do next, how to deal with this life changing situation, and what it meant for Ramzy’s future.

So Rina took matters into her own hands and started the Indonesia Hear Foundation in 2006. In addition to holding monthly workshops with speakers— including Ear/Nose/Throat doctors, psychologists, and therapy practitioners—the foundation also provides hearing aids and cochlear implants for needy children.

Making an even greater commitment
In 2009, Rina took things a step further and opened Click Learning Center, a therapy center for a small number of hearing impaired children. She is using Montessori methodology combined with Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT), which teaches each child to speak using whatever limited hearing they can achieve, either naturally or through a hearing aid or implant. The goal is for children to learn not only to speak, but also to read and write and use a computer—all skills needed to help them survive in a mainstream school and society.

“Often, a child who has learned to lip read will have a difficulty pronouncing the Indonesian word avam or chicken,” says Rina. “The child will pronounce the ending word with p instead of m because the lip movement of a word ending with m and p is the same. That is the short-coming of lip reading.” But by using auditory verbal therapy technique, problems like these can be solved. “The children are trained to hear words through their hearing device—without looking at lip movement. It is like a miracle to some parents,” says Rina.

A full house
Today the center—which is situated in Rina’s home—is at full capacity with 40 students from all types of economic backgrounds. IBM resources and programs have helped to make the center successful. Since most of the students are under age five, a KidSmart computer is an important education tool to help the children enhance their concentration, fine motor skills and, of course, their vocabulary and communication skills.

“Currently, more and more parents want to put their child in my learning center. These families are not only from Jakarta, but also from outside the city. It is hard for me to refuse them, but at the same time, we really have reached the maximum capacity.” To help accommodate the demand, Rina is having a new learning center built—in her front yard! “The center is only about 15% complete, as we still are in need financial funding,” says Rina. It’s a big commitment, but Rina says she loves what she does, so it doesn’t feel like work.

Part of the impetus for expanding the learning center comes directly from the children themselves. She says, “The children need to go to school but the parents have difficulties finding an appropriate school that can mange kids with hearing impairments.” At the new learning center, Rina will also open a kindergarten that will accept hearing impaired children, along with children with normal hearing. Rina continues, “Hearing impaired children need to mingle with normal hearing children so they are motivated to communicate verbally and learn vocabulary from their peers.”

However, to get non-hearing impaired children to go to a school with lots of hearing impaired children is not an easy task. To meet her goal, Rina will offer tuition-free education to children whose families could not otherwise afford to send their children to kindergarten.

“I have met a lot of parents with various backgrounds and stories and it inspires me to do more, as there are still a lot of parents who don't know what to do when they find out they have a hearing-impaired child. I also am inspired by the ways that families stay strong in the face of adversity. And I am very happy when I see the children who are finally able to communicate verbally and attend a regular school.”

Rina is a winner of the 2012 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award which recognizes IBM employees and teams who best exemplify the IBM values of dedication, innovation and trust through their volunteer efforts.

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