SUKOHARJO, Indonesia (Reuters) – At the height of Indonesia’s deadly second wave of coronavirus infections, Agus Widanarko donned a superhero outfit and made multiple visits to isolating households each day to bring some smiles and support to children during the pandemic.
His efforts have earned the 40-year-old, who normally works as a drug counsellor, the nickname “Super-isoman” (“isoman” refers to self-isolation in Indonesia).
“I do this because many children feel bored during the 14 days of isolation, so they need psychological assistance or trauma healing,” said Widanarko, who is also known as Danar.
At the start of the second wave in June, he visited about six families daily, dressed in a range of his superhero costumes, including Spider-Man and Batman.
With a drop in the caseload, Widanarko, who reckons who has entertained more than 100 children in four months, now conducts visits in his neighbourhood in Central Java once a week.
He recently visited 5-year-old Muhammad Fakhri, who was isolating with his family and had lost his father to COVID-19.
“Of course I am very happy that my son got entertainment. Coincidentally it was his birthday yesterday and he was very sad as he was not accompanied by his father,” said Nur Hidayah Brotowati, 37, Muhammad’s mother.
Indonesia has faced one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia, recording more than 4 million cases and over 138,000 fatalities, with the young often bearing the brunt of mental and emotional anguish.
In a report, the U.N.’s children’s agency (UNICEF) estimates that 80 million children and adolescents in Indonesia are facing widespread secondary impacts on their learning, health, nutrition and economic security due to the pandemic.
Fajri Kirana Anggarani, a psychology lecturer at Sebelas Maret University (UNS), said the visits could help children get some meaningful stimulus during the pandemic to support development of their imagination and social relations.
Super-isoman said he also gets plenty from his role.
“What I get from this activity is a psychological reward, when the child is happy, I am touched and happy,” Widanarko said.
(Writing by Angie Teo; Editing by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle)