Accessible Transport Begins with the One In-charge of Driving Them

One challenge most PWD have accessing services is the lack of transport and if there are available means, often are not accessible. Most of the time I argue that “in the real world” without external help from NGO people just have to deal with what is there because once they leave, funds run out, people will just have to deal with the reality and make the decision to win over it and access the services or let it win over them and be miserable.

The Philippines one of the first country to have disability law, long before I was born (or maybe I am just a baby), and many other neighboring countries in SEA copied that and adapted in their own culture and context.

But let’s be honest, our respect for people with disabilities still very low. The law does not reflect that in the way our public services are run in this country – people with injuries, disabilities, elderly and other vulnerable groups are second-hand citizens who have to keep pushing and fighting to get to the front of the row and be heard. We’re making some long overdue development but not in the area of public transport.

With my current situation, I am hanging by the “estribo” and observing how a simple visit to the hospital can be a big production.

Before I get carried away, let me re-tell here a little bit of my accessibility and transport challenge and share a few insights on how situations can be improved.

So, when I arrived in the Philippines, coming from a 24-hour journey, around 10,000 kilometers away, I was picked up by a van whose driver doesn’t know how to help me get in from my wheelchair. Which was an insult to the amount of care I had from the hospital to the airport to the plane until I deplane in the Philippine airport.

I just told my sister, 5 weeks post-injury and surgery that no amount of experience in rehabilitation, teaching, demonstrating and grading students prepared me to be a patient but in the case of the last stretch to home – that experience helped a lot!

The airport support staffs are not trained to handle people with disabilities and doesn’t know how to do handling and trasnfers. My teaching skills helped a bit, giving simple instructions how to position the chair when I transfer seats because I don’t want to have more injuries.

Having been pampered from the first and second leg of the journey, my expectations of the third and last leg would be exceptional, simply because it’s home and I pride myself on being Filipino – we go the extra mile! But I was mistaken.

My injury is not life-threatening and I received the best care possible, so there really was no need to be fuzzy and feeling special. But after a long journey, in a cast, I was ready to collapse and be lifted by my family that will receive me at home to bed. Instead, I have to struggle to go in a van using my butt again and endangering my leg hitting the ground in case I lost my grip.

The driver of the van doesn’t know how to help me get in. I was expecting my pick-up to be similar to the ones I had in Tunisia or at least it was meant to pick-up passenger like me and drivers have training on how to handle situation like mine.

Practiced what I preached, I sucked it up and made the situation work for me, anyway in a couple of hours I will be in my family home. In the end, the driver was nice, he drove well and he was not properly briefed, so why shot the messenger.

That experience was a month ago, I am over it but I have to take a cue on my experience to drive a point on the issue of accessible transport at the same time upgrading the skills of our drivers.

I don’t drive myself, but if I do, I would undergo a first-aid training to be prepared in events of an accident and in my case, to at least know how to handle people in delicate situations. If I do a survey now and ask how many of the drivers in my village knows CPR or how to carry someone or what not to do in cases of accident, I will have a lot of success finding how many DO NOT know that those who do.

Proper transfer technique, from the wheelchair or any assistive device to cars, bus, train even plane and in the Philippines to jeepney (that is something to think about) is a good skill to have. One reason why drivers don’t care about PWD and the elderly is that they don’t understand our (the disabled part not the elderly!) situation, we should make them understand by training them simple transfer technique so they will feel useful and helpful.

Last but not least, and the most important is to require drivers to have a mandatory re-examination of the traffic rules and regulations and their driving skills at fairly regular intervals – five years maybe?.

I don’t know if it will increase accessibility to transport but what I do know is that it will increase peoples understanding of disability, increase their compassion towards their fellow-men and appreciate their abilities by providing them the opportunity to be mobile and the road will be safer if drivers are more responsible.

Advertisements

Key To Happiness In Your Job Is To Work With Passion

I’m officially jobless and at the moment disabled. So you can say I have time on my hands, so I am going to update my blog site.

Actually, I still have work to finish from my last mission, but I am happy to finally break-free from the so-called “cursed” mission and will start fresh as a consultant. I am not at liberty to talk about the mission itself (this being a public platform) nor of the people I worked with. But the reason some of us called it a cursed mission was because of the stings of misfortune it had during the year and of course my unfortunate accident in the place that I had misgivings to move from the moment it was offered to me.

In fact, the moved to Tunisia made me realized how badly my position and myself was disregarded but I forged ahead because more than myself, the people we help needed better services than the accident that happened and found myself back in my parents home. I remembered something that was told to me last December.

A wise man told me “you deserve to be in an organization that celebrates your achievements and appreciates all that you’ve done”.

I trusted the guy, though we met only a couple of times, the meeting was always very productive. I guess he was able to see the efforts we put into what we were doing, he appreciated me as a person and saw my passion and wit in all the interactions we had and acknowledges what our team had done in the country in spite of the context and the challenges we had to face. While at the same time, my organization has threatened and willing to part with me because I couldn’t accept to live in a house not livable according to my standards and to the cost they are willing to pay.

 

Buntang 208.JPG

I don’t mind living in tents when necessary than a house shoved your throat because its procedure

 

There are thankless job around and being a humanitarian aid worker can be one of them. I say that from experience because there are a lot of things that happen within the scope of this work that is hard to explain.

How many of my friends really understand what I do? Unless they worked with me directly, they will know that sometimes I write procedures that nobody would care to follow or give advice that no guarantee will be even considered. We only see the surface of the crisis once reported in the news, but we don’t know the aftermath of it, the effect on the people that before are progressive and because of the war or calamity become vulnerable. They would not know the amount of work needed to get things off the ground, the get services accessible, the number of negotiations and paper works required to get access to funds to keep our work going, and many more.

 

Olive harvest in Gaza is a form of inclusion activities 

 

How many people understand the word vulnerable? Not many, because most of us are consumed with our own problem that we don’t see beyond them and feel for others who have more significant issues than us. We sometimes live in a bubble that when it burst we don’t know what to do next Well the people I encounter didn’t ask to be vulnerable, their situation made them, that’s why I don’t accept the reactions of Europe to the migration crisis happening from the Middle East to Africa and Myanmar.

In my organization, we kept talking about inclusion, in fact, they even changed their name to it because they said it reflects more their values than its current name (which somehow I agree) if only people really understand how inclusion works. How it is translated into viable action, resulting in sustainable change.

It is hard, it is thankless, but in spite of all the nonunderstanding or misunderstanding, I continue to do what I do. Because early in my career, I made a promise to myself that I will do this because I believed that this is what God wants me to do – to build lives including mine, one brick at a time. I also decided to only do my best and with passion even if the best that I know is underappreciated or not even considered at all as long as the end results improvement in the lives of the people that really matter. Passion is another subject hard to measure or quantify. I cannot explain it as clear as I could especially to friends who already told me to quit but I wouldn’t, and I leave it at that.

So even with my current state – being confined to home strapped to my cast, not able to move with our personal assistance, I am happy that I had contributed something to the work done in my last mission. My friends keep telling me it’s a sign that I have to slow down and force myself to rest now that my contracts finish and take time to think about my future.

Planning Without You Knowing It

Having dinner one night the guy I am seeing asked me a very serious question “how is your life?” followed by more profound question “are you happy?”. Not understanding, I asked back what he meant by those questions, which he elaborated by asking what my plans are? Knowing myself, I gladly obliged and listed my plans at least for the next five or so years.

Curious, I asked back about his plans and having a slight idea of what he will answer me, he simply said: “I have no plans … just wake up, go to work and come home tired and the day repeats.”  Then he went on saying he likes to live in a small house in front of the beach so he can just swim all day and fish for food.

I asked about money, and said: “I don’t need money, will just have to use some of the fish in exchange for what I will need.” The conversation eventually led for him to tell me he will raise sheep for meat and milk, and he will get at least two sheep every year and give it to people in exchange for anything he needs, even sex. Well, I guess the last part was a bit of a stretch, but then I told him, “you just laid out your plans without you knowing them.” And he was quiet.

For some people, planning is daunting especially if you don’t have all the cards in a row, situation and life circumstances can easily thwart well thought out plans, but that’s just how it is. When it happens, you just go back to the beginning and start over or start from where you left off.  Haci, the guy I am seeing (he insisted I put his name because he said he has one), knew well that when I say something or schedule an outing, it can change at the last minute. There are times he will just go along and wait until it happens. That means the world around me – mostly my work evolve and I go along as it does and try to be sane until I get to where I need to be.

But in spite of the uncertainties, it is good to know what you will do tomorrow or the day after or next week, month and years. It gives you a little bit of guidance where you’re heading, and like Haci he thinks he doesn’t make a plan, but he does.

I know that he wants to start his wedding dress design studio or shop abroad, but he also knows he’s not yet ready. He uses his current work to get as much training and experience as he could including learning how to saw using the high-speed machine to eventually do what he wants in the future. Because I know eventually he will not want to work for someone, instead, he wants to be on his own, earning his own keeps and gaining good reputations for his creations, and I know too that he has a way of achieving them we just don’t think alike for him to believe me. In his mind, it’s not a plan, they are just thoughts because the opportunity presents itself.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, so next time when someone asks me what I want to do in my life, I’ll remember the small house by the beach with sheep in the other room.

Adjustments to the realities of war and violence

Death is the ultimate price to pay in war or in any situation that involves violence.

But what if you didn’t die when exposed to the cruelty of the world? That person ends up disabled changing the dynamics of his or her life and of the lives of the people around them. Especially those closes to him or her whose coping with the change also affects their being starting from their psyche.

I call it the ripple effect as a consequence of trauma.

The impact of disability, which brings change to the person himself is too much. It is life changing, altering everything he worked all his life for. Everything that they know is normal is altered forever. In their mind, more often than not their lives are over, and with that thought, it is often difficult to convince people of the alternatives. that life continues with some accommodations to start over and build a new reality.

Like in any situation of trauma, people with disabilities undergo the process of grief and acceptance. No one can do it alone, help should be available when traumatic events happen in one’s life.

The assurance that “you are not alone” should be there to see the person through the initial shock of the new reality of being alive and of being different.

The difference should be a part when the person learns to accept that it does not change anything more than the appearance. His or her mental health should be considered immediately to allow reality to set in with less dramatic effect on his understanding of his or her new person. Accepting together with him or her would be the closest people in his life because, like rearing children, acceptance of change is a “village”.

Not knowing what is there for him or her, and for them further traumatizes the person’s mind and body that is why it is important that during emergencies, psychological first aid – counseling is available and accessible to all.

Mental health support is for all the people that surround him or her as it will buoy them over to the new reality of their lives and prepare for their environment. This is accompanying immediate medical and physical support to get the person back on his or her feet and start to follow the process until a new life, an accepted reality is reached empowering the person himself and those around him into continue living because at least that they can do something about it.

No one support is more important – be it physical, medical or mental health support. We have to look at the person and acknowledge that what s/he needs is a holistic approach to allow full and complete recovery and continue to be part of the environment with the support of the people around them, equally able to adjust to the new life brought on by senseless war and violence in our world.

#NoMoreWar

Oh Dear It’s Been Six Months!

What would you do if someone come and complained she doesn’t understand what her team is doing when they go to the field and she’s in her job for 6 months now?

This is a serious question.

I get this far too often these days, and I don’t know what to do with the person asking. She’s been hired as a program manager with only 2 people under her supervision which should be easy and we all started at the same time, 6 months ago!

She’s claimed to have worked in the community before joining the team and knows her way around management, so there should be no problem. But there is, and I am getting tired of the same old question and complaints. To think that I have no direct relation with this person made the issue even more annoying and compelling at the same time.

To think that I have no direct relation with this person made the issue even more annoying and compelling at the same time because they all come up to me and ask, complain and whine (for the others involved).

I don’t want to come across as someone very nasty, but sometimes, I question our hiring process – why do we hire these kinds of people? That after 6 months on the job still seems like they just started – doesn’t know anything even if I am aware of the fact that she has all the information.

This is not very progressive, and it’s making me angry.

WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 9.07.28 PM.jpeg

In my line of work, I come across all kinds of people. I am mostly patient and tolerant because I was a newbie once in my life so I know how it is to venture into humanitarian work. It can be like “pressure cooker” but only if you let pressure gets to you and this project, it shouldn’t be one of those.

That is why I am confused … maybe you can help me.

 

Why is it hard to take R&R during a mission?

Everybody who knows the kind of work I do knows the value of “holidays.” It is the much-awaited time-off, planned at the beginning of the mission to fit within the whole year calendar of the post assigned.

According to me, the supposed rest and recreation (or recuperation) or simply R&R is not really that restful when planning for it.  Don’t get me wrong I am one of those who looks forward to it but very lazy to plan ahead because unlike some people traveling, it takes more effort for me to plan than it should be.

Because …

  1. I always have to plan ahead (which I don’t like) to get a visa if places I want to visit requires one for my nationality. And to do that I will need requirements that are sometimes complicated to gather when you’re out of the country to even be granted a 15-day pass.article-0-0B3FB5B800000578-178_468x315
  2. I try to be thrifty, but with advancing age and the kind of adventures I like nowadays, I will need to shelve a little more than what I used to do. Now, I prefer to enjoy a little luxury and comfort when traveling. Top-10-Luxury-Travel-Trends-and-Predictions-for-2013
  3. Related to number 1 and 2, I always try to go to places where I don’t need a visa to visit, and I visited most of those countries. I had my shares of backpacking and sleeping in shabby places. Now those places that remain to be visa free are in other continents that will require some serious savings both for the airfare, board, and lodging and of course shopping, so they are not for R&R kind of holidays! rlytdimje6ozs66xsnpcj5ssh9vnqlyk-xlarge
  4. The work gets in the way. Always felt that as it nears my break work seems to pile up. Because I don’t manage people I have no one to endorse work and leave without being tempted to check on things, worst to cancel holidays. 
  5. To avoid all those problems, the last option is to visit “in-country” where I am assigned. But that defeats the purpose of R&R right? Although I did it more that I could count depending on the context and security situation of the country it is always best to do R&R in another place – preferably another country!

But then again there is the last option that defeats all the points I mentioned above … go home and truly rest. Be in touch with people, places in your hometown. Or simply enjoy time with family and be grounded until it’s time to go back to work and start over again!

Returning to the Fold

For a couple of years, I was so eager to put something on paper, publishing and generate attention from my small friendly followers. I wrote anything and everything of what I had been doing since we entered the millennium era. Although I was dead set to tell you all about my work for people with disabilities, over time I got my thoughts all over and I lost sight on the prize of being a good storyteller.

Who am I kidding? Myself I guess.

I missed the momentum of writing daily and freely. When I returned to work in the aftermath of the great big earthquakes in Nepal. I thought I will have lots of stories to tell but at the end of each day, sleeping under the elements inside a tent rendered it impossible to even get myself to lift my arms to write reports let alone blogs because I was so tired. I did manage to post some stories, photos and a little bit of poetry but it was not enough – I was not able to tell the stories of the life I had there and of the people I encountered. Guided by ethics, I have to be careful what stories I tell and photos I post.

It got more complicated when I moved to Gaza, oPt. Social media was welcome by the Palestinian but not by the Israelis who were in charge to give us work permits to help the refugees in the occupied Gaza and West Bank. I was discouraged to write anything because everything will be taken out of context and of course be seen as bias even if intentions were not. Like in Nepal, I managed to post something but not much to tell you that I had a wonderful time living and working with the people not many of you know are being oppressed every day at this age and time.

Now I am residing in Turkey, not far different from the other context within the region. I wanted to say I am working here, but dare says not, I am touring the country and giving advice along the way.  I am enjoying my time here and inspired to write mentally but physically impossible because I was consumed by other priorities than to write. Inspirations are everywhere, I just need to get myself back on track and start over.

I will not have the #illusion when I begin blogging again, although have to say, those blogs I followed when I started have gained lots of thread and I still enjoy reading their stories. Hope this time I can stick to what I say I will do and eventually become the good storyteller I want to be.

Foça

In the end I am alone

Alone with my thoughts.

Thinking how life had evolved.

In the short time I am embraced.

By your cold heart.

Now,

I am here.

Wanting to be love again.

Nurtured.

Caressed.

By the warmth of your summer breeze.

Next to the sea.

Teeming with life.

That I feel I belong.