Working together: Kirsten and Adrian

Stories | March 1, 2022

Each month, CBM Australia takes a look behind the scenes at our employees who are devoted to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the poorest places on earth.

This month we talk to Kirsten Bate, Program Coordinator at CBM Australia and Adrian Brahma, Program Manager at CBM Indonesia. Kirsten and Adrian have worked together for a number of years and more recently in a remote capacity since the beginning of the pandemic. This is their story.

Kirsten: Tell me about you and your work with CBM Indonesia

I’m CBM country program coordinator for Indonesia, based in Melbourne, and I work with our Indonesia country office on implementing a range of projects that we fund. This includes our community-based projects, eye projects, mental health projects and disaster response work.

I work with Adrian who is with our CBM Indonesia team. Over the past two years he’s mainly been working from home – rather than from the office in Jakarta – like we all have been since the beginning of the pandemic.

From Melbourne, I help with planning our different projects, help with ideas, and can be a bit of a sounding board for what CBM is doing in Indonesia. Sometimes I help Adrian get access to other expertise – for example on approaches to mental health interventions.

Adrian: Tell me about you and your work with CBM Indonesia

My job in CBM Indonesia is to make sure that the projects that we fund are well planned and managed – that they are really making the most change for people’s lives. We have a big focus on strengthening communities to make sure they really are inclusive of people with disabilities in all aspects.

Adrian: What value does Kirsten bring to your work?

She really helps us to think about how we develop and expand our program work. For example, we’ve done a lot of good work supporting people with mental health, and she has helped brainstorm how to scale it up in other locations.  Sometimes we have big picture ideas about what we’d like to do and working with Kirsten, I can bounce ideas around and break them down into achievable goals. Obviously I’ve got more of the local cultural perspective, and understand the context – but Kirsten brings good ideas about what is possible with the funding available.

Kirsten is also good for resources. For example she sent me so much to read and to think about regarding climate change, which I tried to get through in my free time. When I got through all the reading in December, she then sent me 10MB more of reading! This has helped me think through how we should be responsive to climate change in some of the community-based and disaster response programs that we are supporting in Indonesia. And what we need to think about with regard to advocacy around climate change and disability.

Kirsten: For the past two years you haven’t been able to travel because of COVID restrictions, so how have you worked with Adrian?

I love visiting Indonesia so being stuck in Australia has been a real change. But Adrian and I have talked almost weekly over the past two years. He’s been working at home a lot as well and it’s been hilarious having his little girl wandering in and out during our Zoom meetings.

We really work well together, so that if the Indonesian office has expressed some needs about their COVID response, I’m helping by trying to find funding or resources from this end.

Adrian: So how has Kirsten’s influence helped CBM’s work in Indonesia be COVID-responsive?

She is always getting us to think about how our approach can be the best value for money. For example, we work with a lot of eye health projects, so once COVID-19 hit we had to think through whether they could continue, and Kirsten helped with this: should – or could – they continue as planned, or change their focus? We were constantly asking ‘how do we make sure that our work is being relevant and effective to communities being impacted during this pandemic’?

Kirsten: What do you most admire about Adrian?

Adrian has an amazing capacity to do a lot of work, and to have a lot in his head about everything! He never gets flustered, he is always cool, calm and collected, and he’s constantly learning, he’s not fixed in his viewpoints and he is open to trying different things.

Adrian: What is it about Kirsten that you value?

She always goes into bat for Indonesia – that’s what I respect. And she does so much work in the evening because of the time difference with us. I feel that if I need some advice or to bounce an idea around she is open to that – even if it is late at night. She always makes us think how we can best achieve the best quality – she makes us think and think again – what can we learn? And we’ve been on Zoom so much, so I’ve seen her husband wandering past a lot, and I’ve met her dog.

Kirsten: When you next get to Indonesia, what are you looking forward to?

I always enjoy having lunch with the CBM team in Jakarta. We all sit around, discussing the work we’re doing, talking about our families, our holidays. I always order Gado Gado – that’s my favourite.


Thank you Kirsten and Adrian

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