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Rachel was a very young infant when her parents left her at the doorstep of Yayasan Sinar Kasih, a children’s charity in West Java, Indonesia. She suffered from pediatric cataract, a condition rare in developed countries but all too common in the developing world, where oxygen is not regulated as well for premature infants in incubators.

As Rachel grew from infancy into toddler with progressive loss of vision she became wilder and unruly, unable to communicate and with little understanding of the world around her. Services for children with special needs were not widely available. In fact, it was only within the past 15 years that Indonesia committed to making access to education for all children a national priority. In 2003 Indonesia’s Ministry of Education invited Helen Keller International to help forge a pathway of change for all children with disabilities, but especially those who were poor and in vulnerable situations like Rachel.

Hearing of her challenges, a field officer from Helen Keller International’s Opportunities for Vulnerable Children visited Rachel and arranged for her to be assessed at the Special School for Students with Visual Impairment in Pembina, Jakarta. Ibu Iis, an early intervention teacher from the school, found Rachel’s case difficult, but still saw hope and light in the young orphan girl.

Rachel was enrolled in the Early Intervention Center at the school, developed as part of Helen Keller International’s Opportunities for Vulnerable Children initiative. Teachers there are specially trained to work with young children with visual impairments. 

Ibu Iis is one of the Center’s mentor teachers and helped Rachel learn how to use her other senses to compensate for her inability to see. Soon, the once uncontrollable child revealed herself to be a bright and lively student with a hunger for learning. In addition to learning to communicate verbally, Rachel has learned to read Braille and write. 

“Rachel’s social, emotional, communication, and cognitive ability has improved beyond our imagination!” said Ibu Iis. 

The Early Intervention Center continues to be a valuable resource for blind children in Indonesia who would otherwise be left without hope or a chance to thrive and reach their full potential. Helen Keller International’s Opportunities for Vulnerable Children programs and professional training have allowed children like Rachel continue their journey toward equal opportunity and access quality education.