I am so excited and honored to represent the United States in Indonesia as an expert on the employment of people with disabilities. Working with the US State Department to help people with disabilities in Panama, South Korea and now Indonesia has involved some of the most transformative events in my life as the CEO of Bender Consulting Services, a leader in disability employment and civil rights for people with disabilities, and a woman living with epilepsy.
People with disabilities in Indonesia realize very little opportunity to work and face incredible stigma. To help even one person in Indonesia gain employment will be worth this trip; but even more importantly. is an honor to work with the US State Department to see change.
On Monday morning, in Bali, we were with Christine Getzler-Vaughan and Esti Durahsanti from the US Consul in Surabaya. Our first meeting was at Annika Linden Centre in Denspasar Timur. The Annika Linden Centre is an incubator for social change and opportunity for Indonesians with disabilities. The Consulate arranged a meeting for me to present to a group of people with disabilities and businesses that have hired people with disabilities. Although it was only a handful of small businesses, it was so innovative.
After I told my story as a woman living with epilepsy and the success of Bender Consulting Services, I talked about the importance of including people with disabilities in the workforce. I asked the business leaders to talk about why they decided to hire people with disabilities and their experiences as the employer. I loved that they brought their employees with them for the event.
Although many of the job roles are for positions such as dishwashers or as a janitors, in Indonesia for a person with a disability, it is an incredible success. The stigma and lack of understanding is horrific; these businesses were the champions.
As an example of the stigma, we heard a man in the audience who lives with schizophrenia talk about how he and others are ostracized and how families who have a child with a mental health disability are so ashamed they hide the child. He has started a support group and is fighting stigma every day.
We left this great group to join the Bali Sports Foundation for lunch. How powerful they are! This is a group of people with disabilities in Bali using sports as a means for independence. I wish my friend and fellow AAPD board member, John Register was there to meet them! He would have loved and empowered them!
We went to see their center and I realized how much we have in the US. Do not think of a center; think of a small outdoor court that is worn and old. It does not matter. Rodney is the founder and he has put his heart and soul in it. He encourages children and adults to be confidant and strive for independence. He also has a workshop where they work on wheelchair repair and outfitting chairs for sports competition like wheel chair rugby.
Rodney was a chef in Italy and his skills and creativity led to another idea-people with disabilities making pasta by hand. He sells the pasta to restaurants and hotels; it is amazing. This city has great people.
We finally went to the airport for our next trip to Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Christine and Esti, thank you for everything!