written by Jerod Lockhart, Training Officer, Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
This was my first time traveling overseas, I can genuinely state that it was a trip that will be embedded in my memory for a lifetime! My YSEALI PFP Outbound Project was hosted by fellow Nicky Pratiwi, the general manager of Thisable Enterprise, a local NGO that specializes in improving the economic empowerment for people with disabilities in Indonesia in urban and rural areas. Thisable Enterprise mission mirrors many of initiatives my office undertakes in the domain of transitioned-aged employment.
During a workshop at PSBN Tan Miyat Bekasi – School for the Blind, I was able to share the podium with individuals from the blind and disabled community who shared stories of overcoming adversity and strategies to help encourage young students and their parents to achieve their dreams. For example, I had the pleasure of meeting both a law and an architectural student who both vowed to use their education to advance the civil rights of people with disabilities. Furthermore, I also participated in a Q & A session with an advocate, and the parents of the students who attended the school. One of the most interesting questions I received from one of the students was how to get the government to endorse and provide more funding towards improving architectural accessibility, similar to the way we have it in the United States. I assured them that we still a long way to go to achieving full participation and citizenship for PWD; however, to keep pressuring government officials to make accessibility a priority for all.
I had the opportunity to visit Bina Nusantara (Bina University) where I was able to present to faculty and staff tasked with providing accessibility services for disabled students. Many disabled students are given scholarships to attend college; therefore the need to increase equal access was heightened. I gave a similar talk to stakeholders at Daya Dimensi Indonesia, one of the top leadership consulting firms in Indonesia, who were looking to connect employers with qualified candidates with disabilities.
My YSEALI PFP Outbound Project also included time to visit some of the beautiful sites in Jakarta; including President Barack Obama’s childhood school, U.S. Embassy, Indonesia’s independence monument, The Grand Indonesian Mall, and finally Masjid Istiqlal – the national mosque of the Republic of Indonesia. Nicky’s team (including Pratiwi) made me feel welcomed at every stop on our itinerary. Nicky was extremely hospitable; for example, she offered assistance when I needed an interpreter, transportation to cultural sites and food choices while dining at Padang Merdeka. Additionally, the visit to the U.S. Embassy was very enlightening. The new facility highlighted several Indonesia artists, as well as a history lesson of the U.S. Navy liberation of Indonesia from the Japanese during WWII. The people of Indonesia are some of the friendliest and respectful people I’ve come encountered. I hope I was able to provide as much knowledge regarding disability advocacy as I learned from Nicky and her colleagues, “Terima Kasih, – Thank You.”
I want to thank the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, U.S. Department of State, American Councils for International Education, YSEALI PFP Outbound Project, Thisable Enterprise, Jaimie Holmes and Mauli Whitney from the American Councils for International Education for making this project successful. I also would like to thank, Emily, Renny, Gatut, and Putra from the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section for the tour of the Embassy.