This was another exciting day in Indonesia. We met with Jed Dornburg and Pira Vindiartha from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, in the city of Yogyakarta, Java. They are two more wonderful people!
Our busy day began with a visit to Atma Jaya University to meet the Director and speak to college students. Mary and I were invigorated by the interest of the students. Although they did not have disabilities, I encouraged them to join the fight for equality for fellow students with disabilities. I was so impressed by the students! I had an interpreter with me and she was outstanding. The main language spoken in Indonesia is Bahasa, also referred to as Indonesian. There are many other languages spoken in Indonesia, but Bahasa is understood by all. When working with an interpreter you have to learn to pace yourself, but she made it so easy.
When I was finished, we were off to the American Corner Muhammadiya University to speak to the students; I was overwhelmed by their kindness and interest. The class was primarily Muslim students and in the front row were two deaf students! These two young men were so excited and surprised when Mary greeted them in sign language.
Some of the students were so excited to meet me that they did selfies and photos for over 30 minutes. Many asked for my card and e-mailed me that same day expressing their appreciation and gratitude for my visit and the message of advocacy and working to address stigma.
Jed and Pira arranged the next meeting at an event with Kerjabilitas. This is a disability rights group that focuses on employment. I talked first to Rubby, the young leader about the stigma people with disabilities face in Indonesia. I told him I heard from others that families hide children with disabilities due to their own shame. Rubby looked down for a minute and then told me for a long time they hid his sister, because she had a disability. That is one of the reasons he is now an advocate. It is apparent that the theme of stigma and shame is the core of the problem that leads to the lack of work and poverty. After I spoke to everyone, I had them all say loudly, Lead On!!!! I challenged them to form a disability rights group-the only way to see real change.
The day ended with a dinner that included people with disabilities and others from the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative. Each person stood up and talked about the shame associated with living with a disability in Indonesia. We were all energized and connected to pursue the message of hope and opportunity.
I love them all!