Fourteen years ago I was in Aceh as part of the humanitarian emergency response for the devastating 2004 tsunami. Last week I returned with CBM Chair Board, Mick Turnbull.
We travelled across Aceh and East Java, Indonesia, to witness the life-changing work CBM supports for people living with disabilities.
It’s been a very powerful and emotional journey seeing the difference CBM and our partners are making by focusing on inclusive livelihoods and employment for people with disabilities.
East Java has a very high occurrence of preventable blindness so it was also extremely important for us to assess the impact of the I-SEE program that is enabling thousands of people to be screened for eye conditions including cataracts.
But what really filled us with joy was seeing the Disabled People’s Organisation representatives and Self Help Groups. We met Fira, an amazing woman with cerebral palsy and founder of Orbit, a Disabled People’s Organisation. Orbit has 60 members and as Fira told me, “We can support each other.”
It was obvious that Fira benefited from CBM training on disability rights and inclusion when she said, “Our presence as people with a disability is seen.”
What powerful statements on disability rights and inclusion! And it only grew from there.
In a small village in Pidie, Java, we joined a lively Self Help Group of 22 people that really inspired us.
“We feel proud of our journey and particularly grasping the concept of disability and inclusion,” said one of the women. “Before this group, the members caring for people with disabilities were ashamed and now they feel the same as everyone else.”
Several members have started successful businesses because of the savings and loan system the group set up, which means they can buy medicine for their children, meet school needs and help other members of the community.
The Head of the Village spoke about the vital role the Self Help Group now plays. “We would see people with disabilities but didn’t know how to help,” said the Head of the Village. “This group has made the community stronger.”
The Head of the Village then announced that the group would receive government funding at the local level to increase their impact. A great outcome that sums up the catalytic role CBM plays, leveraging funds contributed by the Australian community and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program.
As I reflect, I’m very grateful for local partners who work alongside us to implement life-changing projects and programs, and for the local Disabled People’s Organisations and Self Help Groups who advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.
One of the most touching aspects of the trip for me personally, was witnessing the development in Aceh since the 2004 tsunami. It was incredibly poignant to see the resilience of the local people and how much progress has been made in the 14 years since.
More so, I‘m truly grateful for you. It’s your faith, love and compassion for people with disabilities that enables us to provide inclusive projects, to seek justice for and with them through a voice with government and business, and to give them hope for their future.
Your partnership with CBM is vital in bringing positive change to people’s lives. I can’t stress enough how transformative this work is. It changes the life of the individual, their family and their communities in a sustainable way for generations to come.
So thank you so much for being part of this extraordinary work.
I want to leave you an empowering quote from Siti, one of the women from the Self Help Group who has set up her own business. She says her business is small but:
“Courage is my capital.”
With courage we can achieve anything.