Sunday, October 16, 2005


And what about Wisnu, the child living at Dr Joseph’s expensive clinic? The tall, attractive and well-connected mother of one of my students had told me about Wisma Delman, an orphanage highly recommended by various expat women’s organisations. I was invited to pay a visit to this home to see if it would suit Wisnu.

When I entered Wisma Delman, hand in hand with Wisnu, I could tell that the place had rich and generous benefactors. Two shiny station-wagons stood in the driveway and there was a large swimming pool in the garden.

We were shown round Wisma Delman by its owner, Ibu Tini, a lady in her middle years, who looked as if she had been dressed by Harrods. The bunk beds in the sunny bedrooms appeared brand new and the furnishings in the lounge looked comfortable enough for a grand hotel. The adults and children we came across in the gardens were smiling and looked well fed and well clothed.

"You know that Wisnu is fairly backward?" I said to Ibu Tini.

"We have one other child who’s backward. He’s no problem." She smiled in a businesslike way.

"Other orphanages won’t take backward children, so I’m relieved you’re taking Wisnu."

"He’s a nice looking child. He can’t speak?"

"No. And you’ll see he sometimes moves his head to one side, onto his shoulder. He’s not a normal child." I didn’t want to emphasise Wisnu’s disabilities too strongly in case Ibu Tini decided not to take him, but I was a bit worried that the only staff I could see were awfully young-looking girls.

"I’m told you haven’t been able to find his family?" said Ibu Tini.

"His photo’s been in Pos Kota a few times, but we only got one phone call and the address given, in Tanjung Priok, turned out to be wrong."

"You didn’t like the clinic he was in? Too expensive?"

"Much too expensive. Can I contribute to Wisnu’s upkeep here?"

"You can give us a donation. And you’ll need to sign a document handing Wisnu over to us. He’ll become our responsibility."

I paid, signed and handed over a confused-looking Wisnu.