I have fallen prey many times to an age old excuse for not doing something I’m inspired to do. My excuses usually go something like this,
“I really don’t have the background or expertise to do that.”
“There are people better qualified than me.”
“Who am I to think that I can do this without proper training?”
Well, after meeting Begonia, those excuses won’t work anymore. Begonia, formerly of Spain and now a resident of Bali, is an absolutely remarkable woman who found her passion and life’s work on the streets of Bali while on a holiday 14 years ago.
When Begonia discovered that the Balinese have no organized programs for their disabled kids and adults, and that the disabled are often hidden away because of societal stigmas, she knew what she had to do. No, she wasn’t trained. No, she had never worked with people with disabilities. And, no, she didn’t have the money to fund her new dream. What Begonia did have was desire and determination.
She traveled back to Spain with a suitcase full of merchandise to sell to her family and friends. She sold all of her belongings and began saving money to purchase property and start a foundation. She bootstrapped all of the expenses and talked to anyone who would listen or possibly fund the project. She admits to being stubborn, and it paid off.
Two years and multiple trips back and forth between Bali and Spain, Begonia opened Kupu-Kupu Foundation. Begonia says “Kupu-Kupu is the Indonesian word for butterfly. We have chosen it as our name because it symbolizes the beautiful people whom we serve and who, with a little love, can escape their cocoons and fly away as butterflies.”
Begonia’s “butterflies” include people of all ages with downs syndrome, epilepsy, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, polio, autism and many other undiagnosed conditions. Many of them have never been out of their home or village, ridden in a car, or met other similarly-challenged people. At Kupu-Kupu they receive medical equipment like wheelchairs and walkers and other basic support, but more importantly they meet, play, and develop relationships with each other.
Begonia and her team literally go village-to-village to find those that need help. It takes courage for families to agree to let their loved one attend the weekly day trips. Once they do, the world opens up for the family, who receives respite, and for their child or family member, who receives care and enjoys fun and interaction with a new group of people.
Each day the Kupu-Kupu van goes out to the villages to pick up 8 – 10 clients for a day of games, music, puzzles, lunch, snacks, and hanging out with their friends. The trip can take hours because many of the villages are remote, and the families have no way of getting them to the center. The next day, this remarkable scene repeats with a new group of clients.
We volunteered at Kupi-Kupi and witnessed Begonia and her team in action. I was so inspired by Begonia, her passion, desire, and sacrifice for a segment of the population that is quickly overlooked. She sacrificed and changed her whole life to help people she didn’t know anything about. She just knew she needed to do it.
Begonia’s story is one of action, not excuses.
She stepped out in faith without knowing the final outcome and pushed through the political and financial barricades in her way. Begonia, her husband and the staff are transforming people’s lives and improving the way people in Bali see disabled people. Her staff is committed and engaged, which is a direct reflection of Begonia’s leadership.
My experience at Kupu-Kupu made me even more grateful that I live in a country that does recognize and provide medical services for its disabled citizens. It may not be a perfect system, but there is help available. Having navigated the medical system with Allison’s special needs, I know the challenges, but I am so thankful for all the support we have received over the years to help her regain her speech. I was taken by the fact that many of the disabilities I saw that day were either preventable or treatable with some basic medical care and/or therapy, yet in Indonesia, those services are either financially prohibitive or not readily available.
Begonia’s story increased my resolve to take action rather than make excuses out of fear of failure. I can do more and side-step less. Begonia is my hero. She says she made mistakes along the way and in spite of them has changed thousands of people’s lives. The next time I am tempted to make an excuse, I will remember Begonia and move forward.
If you would like to learn more about Kupu-Kupu Foundation or would like to make a donation, go to their website at www.kupu-kupufoundation.org. If you are traveling to Bali, consider volunteering there. You don’t need medical training, although if you are trained, or are a therapist, you are especially needed. Contact Begonia through the website.