PERKATA – A legacy from Fr. Harry Van Erp MHM
KUCHING — PERKATA (Sarawak Association for the Welfare of Intellectually disabled children) is an NGO (non government organisation) that caters to children with special needs.
The idea was first mooted by the late Father Harry Van Erp when he was the chairman of the Social Welfare Council and had been ministering at the Cheshire Home and the Blind Centre.
Seeing that there was no organisation catering to the needs of the disabled children, he approached Mrs. Lena Chin (a Taiwan trained kindergarten teacher) to help set up a school.
With the help of the British Council, arrangements were made for Mrs. Chin to attend six months of training in Singapore. Subsequently, the British Council also arranged for Mrs. Chin to be attached to various special needs organisations in England.
Upon her return, Father Harry, with the help of the Catholic Welfare Services committee and Mrs. Chin, started a school for special needs with fifteen children, thirteen from the Salvation Army and two from the Catholic church. It was launched in 1972.
Initially, the school comprised of one class, one teacher’s aide and the principal. It was housed in one of the classrooms of the Batu Lintang Primary School.
As the number of students increased, the school moved to Tabuan Ulu Primary School, then Lumba Kuda Primary School, and finally to the present premises at Jalan Ong Tiang Swee.
In 1989, the school became independent of the Social Welfare Council and came under PERKATA administration.
Today, the school has more than a hundred students (aged 4 to 17) in nine classes, with nine teachers and twelve teacher’s aides.
The curriculum focuses on cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, independent living and social skills development.
Activities include craft work, nursery plants cultivation, bowling and swimming.
Along the way, many people and organisations contributed to the development of the school facilities. Educational toys were donated by a PTA of a school in England. The toy library was set up with the help of a grant from the Canadian government.
Two teachers from England who accompanied Mrs. Chin back, helped with the setting up of the language and mathematics curriculum library.
The school depends on its own fund raising activities through its Gallery Shop, selling local crafts, cards and other souvenirs, an annual food fair, donations and a government grant.
This year the food fair will be on Sunday, 28 April 2019. Those interested to set up stalls or purchase the food fair tickets can contact Mrs. Doreen Tie, the present principal at 082-426301 and 0106676301.
Dr. Bibiana Teo – Committee member of PERKATA