How This Amazing Girl Is Fighting Bullying and Changing Attitudes

When we first shared the story of Karunia, a young girl with Apert syndrome, she blessed so many of us. Recently, Compassion Australia caught up with Karunia and her family to learn how she is doing. Be inspired by these beautiful photos and this family’s love and bravery!

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A man stands in a green field at sunrise, holding a hoe, with a mountain in the background.

When Chandra, a farmer in Indonesia, saw his baby girl for the first time, he wept. “When my child was born, I knelt down and prayed,” he says. “I thanked God she was born.”

But as he looked upon his little daughter’s face, the dreams and hopes he had built for her in his mind came crashing down.

His baby waved her hand. But where there should have been five tiny fingers, and nails as small and perfect as seashells, her fingers were fused together into a club. There was a sunken dip in her forehead and her dark eyes protruded.

“I felt crushed and hopeless,” he says.

How would he explain their daughter’s condition to his wife?

He helped hospital staff to dress the baby and wrap her in a blanket. He covered her feet and hands with gloves and socks before handing her to his wife with a shaky smile. They named their little girl Karunia, meaning “bounty” or “prize” in Indonesian.

Then Chandra called his pastor to help break the news of their daughter’s condition to his wife, Angelina.

“The pastor came and asked all the family members to pray together before he spoke,” Chandra recalls.

“My body was shivering upon hearing the confession of my husband. I just cried and wondered why God had entrusted this to me,” says Angelina.

Karunia was born with Apert syndrome, a congenital condition in which the bones fuse together too early in the womb. It affects the skull, hands and feet. While treatment is available, there is no cure.

As a baby, Apert syndrome gave Karunia a difficult start to life.

Apert syndrome caused her pain, high fevers and sometimes she struggled to breathe. Chandra and Angelina hated seeing their daughter suffering, but worse still were the stares and fearful looks people in the community gave their girl.

Neither Chandra or Angelina had a good education and they struggled to care for Karunia, who needed specialized care. But help came from the local Compassion Survival Program, who registered Angelina when Karunia was a year old.

With support and education from staff, Angelina and Chandra gradually had a better understanding of their baby’s situation. Gradually, their fears and anxieties lessened, and they accepted her condition.

Through home visits and activities at the Compassion center, staff encouraged them to think positively about their baby. Today, they are Karunia’s biggest fans and fiercest advocates.

A photo of a girl with Apert Syndrome standing with two adults on a road in front of a mountain.

“I started to feel strong,” says Angelina. “I told my husband that I love her even more than if I had a healthy child without disabilities. It is because of the strength of God.”

Early intervention from the Survival Program, including monthly medical checkups, helped Karunia to become healthy. Staff helped the family to access a government program for low-income earners that funded a special surgery to create fingers on her right hand, while the program covered the costs of her medicine. A second surgery followed in 2017 to provide her with more mobility in her right hand.

When she was old enough, a healthy Karunia graduated to the Child Sponsorship Program, where she has impressed staff with her courage and ability to learn.

A photo of a girl with Apert Syndrome, raising her hand at school.

“I love to play with my friends at school and at the centre. I love to lead prayers or singing,” beams Karunia.

Agnes Singel, Karunia’s teacher, explains, “I wasn’t sure about her ability in the first semester, but now I’m sure she is one of the good students in the class. She is focused and quickly understands anytime a teacher gives an instruction to the class.”

Karunia may not know it, but she is a trailblazer.

A photo of a girl with Apert Syndrome with her arms crossed in front of her, wearing a brown school uniform.

Perhaps her greatest accomplishment is one she may not even be aware of yet. Karunia lives in a small community in east Indonesia, where physical differences are rare. She’s the first to be born with Apert syndrome in her area, and her condition still attracts stares and hurtful comments.

“There are some who bully Nia,” says her father. “They mock her by saying, ‘Hey, look, it’s Nia, the deformed girl’.”

But with the support of her parents, family members and program staff, Karunia is a confident young girl who not only accepts her condition but is changing community mindsets.

“’You are God’s gift’,” Chandra firmly tells her. “When they bully you, you can say that you are God’s gift and not a creation of any man.”

A photo of a girl with Apert Syndrome wearing a red and white school uniform and backpack, standing inside against a red wall.

Karunia beams. “I am beautiful like my mother,” she says.

“When my friends mocked me because I don’t have normal fingers, my mom taught me to say back to them that this is what Jesus gave me.”

To those who know her, Karunia is a gift.

Four young girls, including one with Apert Syndrome, smile at the camera, making peace signs.

A girl sitting on the ground surrounded by her parents holding food containers with greenery in the background.

“She is my own flesh and blood, and we have to take care of her for as long as God gives us life,” says her mom.

“Because God has a purpose for her.”

You can sponsor a child who is facing a special need like Karunia!

As you exchange letters, send photos and offer encouragement in Jesus’ name, your love will bring hope to a child with special needs that will last a lifetime.

Sponsor a Child with Special Needs Today! ›


Words by Vera Aurima and Zoe Noakes; photos by Daniel Robson; A version of this article was originally published by Compassion Australia.

22 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Adrian Martinez September 10, 2019

    Hello Karunia! It is nice to get to know you. You are a beautiful child with a beautiful story and testimony. I think everyone is blessed by your testimony. You should be happy about that. I think you are an awesome example of persevering to your peers, and to the people around you. Please know that they love you too. God bless you. Love Adrian Martinez from the United States

  2. Avatar
    Vera August 28, 2019

    What a wonderful job of project staff where Karunia is registered. Your work is an example of how giving a life opportunity to a girl. Someone who for general is countless because of physically handicapped. May God bless each one of you for all the hard work behind the scene along with Compassion to release children from poverty in Jesus’s name. We love you Karunia, thank you for remind us about how wonderful and faithful our God. We clearly could see His love through your life.

  3. Avatar
    Lois Ann August 24, 2019

    Karunia,

    Your strength gives me strength! Thank you for choosing to place your trust in Christ! It is very obvious that Almighty Creator has placed you exactly where you need to be, and exactly as you were born, to serve humanity. My you continue to walk in his grace and mercy, daily trusting Him for all things.

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    tesfaye girma August 24, 2019

    God has great plan for u and ur family and will allow His glorry to manifest by u b blessed

  5. Avatar
    David Stanley August 23, 2019

    Dear Christian friends:

    I am thankful to our Lord for all three of you! You are beautiful disciples of our Lord Jesus! You speak the blessings of the LORD into my life because I married a disabled young woman from Japan, Okinawa Island –thirty-five years ago. Tears come to my eyes because you have confirmed my convictions in the high value of all children. We, too, are seen as children of God by our heavenly Father.

    I love you, three, in Jesus’ wonderful name,
    David

  6. Avatar
    Corne’ August 23, 2019

    Karunia you are such an inspiring young girl, I pray that God will bless you with health and happiness always.
    Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    Stay strong and keep smiling.

  7. Avatar
    Cayla August 23, 2019

    What a gift you are indeed! Praying God blesses you and your family, Karunia! I’m so encouraged by your story, your life.

  8. Avatar
    Debra McCarty August 23, 2019

    God bless you! You are beautiful and brave and God has a special purpose for you,

  9. Avatar
    Lisa Sprinkle August 23, 2019

    Dear Karunia, please remember the Lord’s words, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” So you are beautiful! And everyone that sees you and your heart see that you are beautiful inside and out! God bless you!

  10. Avatar
    Jocelyne Gauvreau August 23, 2019

    You are valuable and loved by God! May God continue to bless you and may He give you strenght, perseverance and grace for each day of your life.

  11. Avatar
    Shirley August 23, 2019

    Oh Karunia, you give me so much hope for the human race. We are all created in God’s image. It is so wonderful to see Him in you. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I will pray for you and your Mother and your Father. They are God’s blessing for you, little one. Believe in His word, especially Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

  12. Avatar
    Colleen August 22, 2019

    Karunia you are a beautiful girl and obviously very loved by your amazing parents. Don’t ever give up on your dreams or your faith. Thank you for inspiring us.

  13. Avatar
    Rick August 22, 2019

    Hello Karunia, Jesus has great things in store for you in your life. Thank you Jesus for a mother and father of faith. Continue to stay strong in your faith.

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    Patty Bertrand August 22, 2019

    Karunia, you are God’s gift to your family and to all of us who read your story. Keep relying on Jesus. He says in His Word, the Bible, that you are His beloved. We look forward very much to meeting you in heaven one day. Come, Lord Jesus! In His love,
    Tom and Patty

  15. Avatar
    Melvin Clemons Jr. August 22, 2019

    Hello, Karunia!! God bless you and your family. God loves you. As it is written in the scriptures “You are of God,little children,and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”(1 John 4:4). Please continue to pray and remember “being confident of this very thing,that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.( Philippians 1:6)

  16. Avatar
    marcy heidish-dolan August 22, 2019

    Karunia, dear, you are a beautiful child of God. Jesus loves you!

  17. Avatar
    Godfrey Wayengera August 22, 2019

    Karunia, I’m glad you know that God is the one who created you. Psalm 139:14 says “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, And that my soul knows very well”. Let that always be your encouragement. Don’t allow anyone to look down on you. Please remember that God knows you personally. You are going to be a great woman and you are going to influence your generation. I’m glad your parents love you and are excited about you. I also salute the social workers for their encouragement and support. Bravo friends.

  18. Avatar
    Felicia Hamilton August 22, 2019

    Hi,Karunia!

    You are a beautiful light. Keep shining brightly for all to see. 🙂

  19. Avatar
    Rachael August 22, 2019

    Halo Karunia! Allah kasih kamu. Maaf, Bahasa Indonesia aku tidak baik. Aku datang Amerika. Selamat pagi!(Hello, Karunia! God loves you. Sorry, my Indonesian is not good. I am from America. Have a good day!)

  20. Avatar
    Angie August 22, 2019

    Karunia, you are beautifully and wonderfully made!! Continue to stay strong in your faith and show the love of Jesus to others, especially those who are not always nice to you. May God continue to guide and bless you and your family!

  21. Avatar
    Jan Schuler August 22, 2019

    I would encourage Karunia to continue to trust that God is faithful and He will surely fulfill His plans for her. Our daughter Caroline was born with a rare form of dwarfism, which caused many joint disorders and surgeries, and she would grow to only 3 feet 6 inches tall — and like Karunia, she understands God created her for a purpose. Caroline was born on 2-10 (Feb. 10) at 2:10 p.m. We believe God gave her the verse from Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to walk in.” Caroline has always said she would not want to be average sized, “because God made me little for a purpose and I don’t want to miss it.” She is now 24 years old, works with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru), goes on mission trips to Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, is fluent in Spanish and serves as a Spanish medical interpreter, and is finishing college this year. God is faithful Karunia!

  22. Avatar
    Janet August 22, 2019

    You are a beauty. Your beautiful heart is what is important.

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