When I started dreaming of what can have a lasting impact for the many partners we have in the community I thought of educating them of something they cannot forget, something they can sustain and even pass on to the next person.
My role in Timor Leste was project manager and technical adviser on community based rehabilitation (CBR). Basically it was to start a new program from scratch and make sure that after 4 years the project continue and many people with disabilities in the community are able to access services provided by the main partner organization in the capital Dili.
CBR is a concept developed over 40 years ago to give more opportunity for people with disability in the community – from services to other basic needs such as health, education and livelihood. It also encourages people to engage more in the community and the community in return embrace them and make all developments inclusive to uphold the rights of all. This concept also empowers people with disability themselves to exercise their rights to organize and be their own ambassador so that people will truly understand the meaning of “Nothing About Us Without Us”.
After a year in the country, a dream had started to take shape and it spill out to include not only my immediate organization but the disability sector. I have to get them on board (though my organization then was not very happy because it seems like I am diverting from my original job) so I wrote a proposal on creating a training program but instead of giving short-term training why not give a long-term one and attach it to the university to guarantee legitimacy of the training therefore professionalized the CBR workers and eventually sustaining it if I can have it included in the existing community development course. Big dreams!
The materials are there. WHO have an updated CBR guidelines and I know that my organization have a functioning CBR programs in other countries. Just need to adapt it according to the needs of Timor Leste and its disability sector.
There are several active organization in country that would benefit from the course at the same time believe that this approach can be effective and useful. While international organization approached were willing to help according to the demands and challenges of Timor Leste.
There were training done in country in the past but was interrupted by the civil war in 2006 and all the participants then moved on and so are the trainers. The course can use the materials as reference in the development of specific materials for the course.
Infrastructure already exists it just need to be made accessible for people with disability including a community development department started in 2002 that share the same principles of the CBR diploma course.
I just need to make things happen.
After 2 years the dream became reality, the funding pushed through thanks to another organization who believed in the dream and gave more than what I asked for. They were the link to a deeper pocket and kick-started the program by training facilitator and developing Timor Leste materials and made it happen. The hurdles were jumped, the drama was cried for and the success was sweet.
Four years after, the first batch of students graduated as part of the student body of the university – they are now legitimate! and news of continuing the program is taking shape as I write this congratulatory blog for the teachers, the staffs of the participating organization and the students.
Like a mother to a child who finally can stand and walk I feel very proud for these people including the facilitator. I know how it was and they persevered. I know all the drama, I was in the middle of it but eventually it ended and everybody seemed to be happy that finally they completed their 12 months journey into learning inclusive development and CBR and be able to use them in their work for people with disability.
Education is one basic rights that is often not accessed by many people with disability especially in Timor Leste. With this course it opens the doors for others who otherwise would not have opportunity to get into tertiary education, they just have to keep on pushing forward and never look back to the times they are marginalized and are deemed stupid to learn. This opportunity empowers all to become better person for themselves, their families and for their community.
The training does not end after the graduation, it is just the beginning of how the new knowledge, skills and attitude are used into practice and crunch up new numbers for the donors to enjoy. Let us not forget the result is equally sweet as the process so I hope that the students, most of them are my staff would not forget why we have the training in the first place, to help more people with disability access services, protect and promote human rights and empowerment.
Parabens ba ita hotu!