IDEP Foundation

A Woman Who Can’t Sit Still, The Story of Mitha as an Agent of Change

In the middle of last year, a local staff member of the Vaccine & Trace program named Ida Bagus Wahyu Wedhatama was looking for young people who had high motivation to be involved in an activity related to the program. He asked someone, “Is there a social community in Buleleng?” The selection of young people was carried out in Buleleng Regency, and at the same time, it was also carried out in Karangasem and Jembrana. It didn’t take long to find a tough woman with tons of social experience.

The woman’s name is Ni Putu Mitha Purwaningrum (21). Her friend, whom Weda had met, came to see. Mitha was given many directions and asked about the activities in the last few months. She thought the conversation between them was oriented toward the opportunity to become an vaccination instructor. Her guess was, of course, wrong. Mitha was chosen as an Agent of Change (AOC) for the Buleleng Regency area. The orientation is simple: increasing public awareness of receiving vaccinations.

Discussion in preparation for Bondres

Mitha’s joining with AOC did not give up her participation with other communities. She had previously joined the Bali Social Project in Buleleng in 2019 and became the coordinator after that.

When she and her friends in the community were going to provide groceries in an area in Buleleng, a neighborhood head met her. He said the residents were already capable and established. Mitha wasn’t sure about that assessment. Because one of her cousins is a resident there, she knows the economic conditions well. For information, in the same area, the socialization of the COVID-19 vaccination from the local Public Health Center also received an unfavorable response in 2022.

“After I saw it turned out that the names in my data did not get help. Where is the problem. It turns out the head of the neighborhood had a problem. The vaccine issue is also a real problem in Banyuning. In that area, they don’t even want to get vaccines mostly. No socialization can get in there eventually. The socialization was not a failure. The information did not reach the residents because there was no announcement, she said.”

Thankfully, the COVID-19 vaccination can slowly be carried out there after several approaches. Mitha knows that the obstacle that is often encountered during vaccination activities is the blood pressure of potential vaccine recipients, which suddenly rises, thus canceling the vaccination.

One day a 20-year-old young man confidently came to the COVID-19 vaccination center. He went through the screening process well. His blood pressure is stable. Everything seemed safe before he suddenly fell when he was about to put administrative papers on the far end of the table used by vaccination officers to issue a certificate for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Brak!” his body slumped and fell to the floor.

Mitha was shocked and came to him. She waited while trying to bring the man out of syncope. She got this first-aid ability when she joined the Korps Sukarela (Volunteer/ KSR-PMI).

“Why was that?”

“I’m scared.”

“Scared of needles?”

“Yes. I wasn’t ready for the injection just now.”

The man was already awake and immediately sat down. Mitha was beside him. According to Mitha, the doctor who gave the vaccination had the impression that he was giving the injection too quickly, so the person was shocked.

Mitha’s mother helped prepare the Bondres event in Buleleng

Mitha always gets side effects after injecting vaccines. This incident briefly reminded her of the condition after the COVID-19 vaccination she had received. At first, it felt sore in the left hand, then almost numb, and finally stiff. Mitha went home and rested before finally; she couldn’t move her arms for three days.

“Just break off my hand!” Mitha shouted from bed.

That condition happened for the first time when she received the COVID-19 vaccination at the Banjar Center in 2021. However, she also experienced the same thing after receiving the 2nd dose of vaccination and the first booster.

Mitha is a person with lupus. She always conveyed this information to the doctor when she was about to receive the vaccine. The doctor said her condition was relatively stable, allowing her to receive the vaccine. The recommendations from doctors are always the same.

“I once asked the Bali Provincial Health Office about it. He said that I could get the vaccine if my condition were normal. And when I was vaccinated, my blood pressure was normal. Usually, my blood pressure is low. I told the doctor at the time of the vaccine,” said Mitha.

Mitha studied at SMK Negeri 1 Denpasar and was still in class XII when she was active with Social Project Bali. Despite still studying at Electrical Engineering school, she is increasingly involved in social activities.

“Entering the Vocational High School was initially due to the parents’ consideration. I also have a vision of going to SMK to go to college. But I told my parents I didn’t want to go to majors that girls are usually familiar with. Like cooking or cosmetology. I don’t like it.”

Initially, she also had an interest in majoring in multimedia, so majoring in Electrical Engineering was not her only dream. This choice seemed unusual to her peers. But this enthusiasm is fully supported by her parents. However, majoring in engineering was not the last field she pursued. Mitha swerved to something else again.

“I think my abilities won’t be able to cover the next four years if I also have to take courses majoring in Electrical Engineering. It seems heavy if I’m linear,” she said.

Mitha noted the presence of children in the Bondres event

Her love for the world of children is getting bigger. She saw a lot of injustice in children regarding the right to education. Such conditions can often be found in several areas in Denpasar and Buleleng. In mid-2020, she finally made up her mind to register as a student in the Early Childhood Education Study Program (PG-PAUD) at I Gusti Bagus Sugriwa Denpasar State Hindu University (formerly known as IHDN).

The job opportunity to become a PAUD teacher is great, said Mitha, even very large. In her observation, most PAUD teachers are elderly. On the other hand, many who take up this profession do not have a background in PAUD education. “Most are high school graduates who can only teach,” she said.

Mitha is irritated by the view that PAUD has a stigma that leads to one thing: only caring for children. Her consequences have been carefully considered, including the advantages and disadvantages.

“So why should you choose that major?” Mitha said, repeating questions that other people used to ask her.

The COVID-19 pandemic was still so early when she transitioned from student to college. There are many activities she does with Social Project Bali. But she is not satisfied with distributing groceries and helping with health services. She then accessed Instagram, scrolled, and entered the explore section. There she found what she was looking for about another community.

“On Instagram, at first, I often saw them. They posted several conditions from the photos I saw. Oh, sorry for them, the people there. So in comparison, I grew up in Denpasar. People in Denpasar are willing to drop out of school for the sake of dating. And people in remote have a big hope to go to school, but their parents don’t give them.”

In 2020, Mitha decided to join as a volunteer in another community called Buleleng Social Community. She has other routines with this community. Every Friday, she returns to Singaraja and teaches at various locations. From here, she found another side to the world of education.

In Buleleng, several schools are quiet. Only the building remains, a few students, and the number of teachers is easy to count. The government’s appeal to the public to keep their distance and “stay at home” is complex. The classrooms became quiet. To the extreme, some schools didn’t even get new students. Some teachers started to leave and disappeared one by one. One of these situations was found by Mitha in Bebetin Village, Sawan, Buleleng.

“Because I also occasionally teach in several areas. So I also had time to teach at Bebetin for underprivileged children. That was in 2020, during the early days of COVID. I need a lot of activity. I’m the type of person who can’t stay at home. What should I do, lie down, play cellphone. I’m confused if it has to be like that all the time,” she explained.

A Kindergarten leaves three teachers. One is elderly and approaching retirement age, while the remaining two are of productive age. However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the two teachers chose to only occasionally teach at school because it was too far from home to school.

The school seemed to be dying, or indeed dead. These empty classrooms do not represent the shift in face-to-face teaching and learning activities to online. But student regeneration does not exist.

Mitha once asked the teacher there. A young teacher with multiple positions. The only one who is the most diligent in going to school.

“Does that mean you are teaching here alone, right?”

“Yes, I also have double work. As a principal. As an administration. As a teacher, yes too.”

“Why can’t you get a few students?”

“There are many factors. For example, there are still many who think, why do we have to send our children to kindergarten when we can go straight to elementary school?”

Mitha was surprised to hear that answer. How can a school survive due to a shortage of students and teaching staff but still have to be tested again by a global pandemic, she thought. “I have to be able to change people’s mindset so there is no longer the view that girls only have to stay at home to do household chores,” she muttered.

Not enough with the two communities, Mitha also took on the role of head of the cadre division with the Indonesian Hindu Dharma Student Union (KMHDI) on her campus. She is also the chairman for KMHDI Teaching and visits the Dharma Jati II Orphanage, Denpasar. The activity was held for two weeks in May 2022.

“Besides teaching, there is also character education. At that time, the issue of drugs was still in full swing. So at the same time, we socialize drug counseling, health, and because we are related to Hinduism, we also instill religious values,” she said.

Documentation video shooting process with Niskala Studio

Several months after this activity, Mitha officially became a member of AOC in August 2022, to be precise. Different groups faced challenges. For the first time, she encountered rejection of receiving vaccinations because of the emergence of biased information about the dangers of vaccination. Mitha contacted other AOC friends, “What are your obstacles?” Rejection is the answer that often comes.

One day, a grandmother in an area in Buleleng will receive a COVID-19 vaccination. But in the end, it failed because the child said vaccination was not good for older people. At another time, Mitha had the opportunity to ask about rumors or HOAX related to vaccines via telephone. Everyone claimed to be okay. Oh, Mitha thought, maybe these people don’t understand what HOAX means. She re-explained it, and the result was the same. All of them admitted that they had never received lousy information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine until she came to a conclusion.

“It’s not the elderly who receive HOAX, but their children who are exposed to HOAX. We are already advanced in technology. But we still can’t determine whether the vaccination information is true.”

Another rejection had occurred when Mitha was going for a walk. A man was relaxing on the beach when she approached him. The pleasantries just ensued before moving on to the topic of conversation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

That’s Mitha. Likes to meet new people. Talking indiscriminately, whether young or old.

“Have you been vaccinated yet, sir?” Mitha asked a simple question.

 “Why a vaccine? We’re not going anywhere anyway,” the man replied.

“But vaccines are also needed, sir.”

“Why a vaccine? Why are you controlling me? Vaccine or not is my right. You are a child, and you don’t know anything.”

“Yes, sir, I was just asking anyway.”

The man’s tone was getting higher, “I know everything better.”

Mitha answered softly, “Oh yes, sir, I’m just reminding you.”

The discussion between the two of them stopped suddenly. Mitha said goodbye to her interlocutor, but there was no response. Even so, the man’s face was still cynical.

Many funny stories also colored her activities with AOC. Mitha and her friends once met a person with a mental disability to get vaccinated before finally running away when they were about to be injected. Or another story like a grandmother who came the earliest because she wanted to be given the COVID-19 vaccine again after getting four doses, including the booster, “It’s safe. There is no need for any more vaccines,” she said to the grandmother.

Mitha was not discouraged by the rejection she had experienced. Nor does she laugh at the funny stories she encounters. This woman always seems energized to meet people to and fro as she wishes. There will still be many social activities to be carried out in the future in the following years.

Article: Nicolaus Sulistyo

Photo: Hamzah, Nicolaus Sulistyo © IDEP Foundation