Giving People With Disabilities a Chance to Build a Second Life for Themselves
Jenny van Opdorp
In 2002, Alit, a 19-year-old Balinese man, slipped off his motorbike, fell and was run over by a truck. He was hurried to a hospital where they had to amputate part of his right leg below the knee. His dream of becoming a policeman was shattered.
Devastated, depressed, ashamed and without any hope, he stayed at home for many years. He was the only one in the village with a physical impairment and he felt that people judged him. It was if there was no hope for the future. He watched a lot of television and sometimes helped his parents with chores.
One day, while he was flipping through the channels on TV, he came across a program about a man who, just like him, lost part of his leg. But this man found a way to be able to walk again. He was wearing a prosthetic leg which helped him to live a “normal” life.
Motivated by seeing how the prosthesis changed this man’s life, Alit decided to try to get one, too. He found out that there was an organization in Solo where they made prostheses. His parents supported Alit’s decision both financially and mentally, and eventually Alit got a prosthetic leg of his own.
When he came back to Bali, he felt more confident, less ashamed and slowly he started dreaming about a future again. He just didn’t know where to start. His uncle referred him to an organization for people with disabilities, also referred to as a DPO. He joined a few DPO workshops where he learned how to make products out of wood and even helped fill orders. But still, Alit thought the future had more in mind for him.
Eventually he learned about a soft and hard skill training program, organized by another DPO. The objective of the training was to prepare people with disabilities to work in formal employment, so they could be socially and economically independent. He went for an interview and was admitted to the program.
The training took three months, during which time Alit learned some English and how to use a computer. He also worked on his self-confidence, learned how to find and apply for a job and how to become independent.
During his training, Alit stood out because of his responsible attitude and his eagerness and willingness to learn. The staff of Yakkum Bali, one of the organizations that helped with the training, noticed this, too. After finishing the program, the director of Yakkum Bali offered Alit a contract as a field worker.
I was volunteering with Yakkum Bali and was able to see Alit work and grow on a day-to-day basis.
His first year as a field worker wasn’t easy. He had to learn many new things — how to work together with colleagues, how to help other people with disabilities, how to manage his time, how to organize his work, how to work with foreign volunteers at Yakkum.
Many times he felt overwhelmed and insecure. Suddenly people were asking his opinion on things and expecting him to take initiative. He didn’t think he could live up to everyone’s expectations.
Alit’s special assignment was to help organize the next training course, but he didn’t feel like he was up for this challenge. To participate in the training was one thing, but to help organize it, that was a bit of a stretch.
To his surprise, Yakkum’s staff members kept believing in Alit and saw him through his insecurities. They guided him through the process, talked with him, challenged, guided and supported him, took him to meetings and invited him on their visits to local businesses.
Gradually Alit began to see that he was up for the task. More and more, he took responsibility for organizing the training and helped others.
Last week, the fourth official soft and hard skill training sessions finished. Alit, together with two other staff members of Yakkum Bali, organized the whole training on their own. He took care of the daily activities for the participants, coached them, made a schedule and a budget plan, worked together with others to find volunteers and internships, dealt with problems and even facilitated some of the workshops during the camping trip and outbound trip. He went from participant to organizer and facilitator.
For me, Alit’s change has been the most meaningful thing I witnessed during my two-year placement.
Count Me In is a volunteer initiative created by BeritaSatu Media Holdings that aims to connect like-minded people with meaningful causes in Jakarta and across Indonesia. For more information, visit thejakartaglobe.com/pages/countmein or follow @CountMeInID on Twitter.