by Julie Krause

When a family lives in poverty, and also has a child with disability, life can be doubly challenging.

Niaman, a mum from Indonesia, knows those challenges. But her life and that of her family, including daughter Omera, was changed forever by support from the global Lutheran family, including through Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS).

Last year through ALWS, and with assistance from the Australian Government, LCANZ members and friends supported 6,359 people with disability to better engage in the life of their communities, in countries including Nepal, Somalia and Indonesia, where Omera is from.

When Omera was born, Niaman says hospital staff did not bring her baby daughter to her for two days. ‘When she was born the midwife did not bring my baby to me’, Niaman says. ‘They kept her for two days because she was not normal like other babies. Her hands were not normal. They kept it a secret for two days.

‘But when I saw Omera, I was not sad. I saw her beautiful face, and this changed my heart. I loved her.’

Niaman says that when Omera came home from hospital, many people from their village came, wanting ‘to see this strange baby’.

‘They told me many hard things like, “How can you take care of this baby? Look at her hands and feet! What can this baby do when she grows up? You will have trouble in the future”’, Niaman says. ‘Sometimes I would think about those words, and I would cry. It was hard.

‘My sister did not want me to take Omera to the market, the local ceremonies, or even to church because she felt shamed. But I did not listen. I still took her. When I felt sad, I would tell myself that Omera is a gift from God, and that each gift he gives can be different.’

Through ALWS, in collaboration with its Lutheran partner in Indonesia CDRM&CDS, and the Australian Government, Niaman was supported to create a kitchen garden. Before this help, Niaman says she could only feed her family rice with salt. It broke her heart that her children were hungry, and that Omera might miss out on the support she needed.

Niaman joined a Lutheran-supported farm group through which she learnt about compost, mulching, organic fertiliser, weeding and effective watering. She wanted to grow enough nutritious food for her family, and to sell surplus vegetables for income to pay for any extra care Omera might need. Niaman says she loves her garden and grows chillies, beans, mustard leaves, corn, eggplant, tomatoes and her favourite – water spinach!

Each day she gets up at 5am and goes to the garden looking for bugs to remove from the plants. She says she has also been shown how to make organic pesticide from local plant materials and things like garlic, wood ash, tobacco and onion bulbs through the farm group. ‘We mix it with water and then blend it with a mixer before letting it ferment for three weeks’, she explains.

‘I am always looking and take away the weeds. Sometimes the older girls help me. I feel so very happy, because when I want to use vegetables in my cooking, it is already there! I don’t need to go and buy, especially when we have not much money. This means I can have money for sending the children to school, especially Omera in the senior school.

‘I thank the people of Australia for helping my family to make the garden, and especially for Omera, so she can keep her spirit in education and keep learning and feel confident in herself.’

Now, Omera is flourishing at school as much as the veggies flourish in Niaman’s kitchen garden!

‘If any mother has a child with disability, if your child wants to go to school, support them’, Niaman says. ‘Don’t be ashamed of them. Don’t keep them in the bedroom. Bring them out to the community. Don’t be shy to tell [others] about this child, even when they have disability.

‘Don’t stop them when they have the spirit to go and encourage them to socialise with others. Don’t limit them. Love them!’

Julie Krause is ALWS Community Action and Supporter Care Officer for South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

A beautiful artist, Omera has drawn how the love shone into her family through ALWS has transformed her family’s life. This drawing is now printed on a tea towel offered as a thank you gift for the first 500 orders in this year’s ALWS Gifts of Grace. You can give a Gift of Grace to supply another family in Indonesia with a kitchen garden just like Niaman and Omera’s at or by phoning 1300 763 407.

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