By Mary St. Aubin, a member of the SkillCorps Indonesia July 2017 team
It’s hard to believe that my entire journey with SkillCorps began with a single Google search; Autism education abroad. As a special education teacher, I have dedicated my career to advocating for individuals with disabilities and providing them with the most appropriate and least restrictive educational opportunities. As a person curious about different cultures, I have looked for opportunities to broaden my experiences and appreciate all that this amazing world has to offer. Putting these two passions together was a no-brainer.
Prior to traveling with SkillCorps, I knew very little of the specifics of what I would be doing while in country. With my “planner” personality I thought this would be must more stressful, but after meeting my incredible team, and hearing firsthand from Molly Ola Pinney, the values and ideals of the Global Autism Project and SkillCorps, I knew I had made the right choice in trusting in their plan for me. To those who asked, I would explain that I would be working with a team of professionals to train the educators in Indonesia on best practices for teaching students with Autism. This of course was true and all, but I could never have anticipated how much more it would really be.
One of the days that I felt was the most impactful, was “car free day”. Every Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia, one long stretch of road is closed to motorized traffic. Venders set up along the streets, and families enjoy a few hours of exercise and togetherness. This setting provided a perfect opportunity to promote the Rumah Tiara center and spread awareness about Autism. My team and I practiced our Bahasa by speaking with members of the community to collect surveys about people’s priorities in education. In no time at all, we had collected 75 surveys, taken dozes of pictures, and helped to spread the word of Autism acceptance in Indonesia. The most touching moment of the day was when a couple and their son walked up to out banner. The mother pointed to her son and said, “Autis”. She spoke with Rumah Tiara’s coordinator Roni for a moment about the services her center provided. The mother seemed so grateful to have found an opportunity to improve her son’s education. He could be a potential client someday! It was the defining moment of the trip for me, because it really exemplified our purpose here; to spread the word of acceptance and make the world a better place for people with Autism.
The women who work at the Rumah Tiara center are the most passionate, dedicated, and inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. They are aware of the challenges and hurdles that lie ahead of them. They know that they will be faced with ignorance and misunderstanding. They know that to change the problem they must first change the culture. Changing the mindset of a culture sounds like such a daunting task, yet it is so incredibly necessary. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a small part in their cause; the cause for change.
An important end to every day as a SkillCorps member is the opportunity to reflect on the day in the form of a plus/delta. The plus keeps you thinking of the positive, even on the hardest of days. The delta is the change; the change that I can control. My plus for my time in Indonesia has been the incredible people I have had the pleasure of getting to know over these passed few weeks, the amazing women at the Rumah Tiara center, and the impact I have felt that we have all made together. My delta for this trip is to continue to change the world, and with the Global Autism Project and SkillCorps, I know that I can help to make this world a better place for people with Autism.
There have been so many moments throughout my time in Indonesia that I find hard to put into words. The amount of personal growth is indescribable. I challenge anyone who is considering joining SkillCorps to jump in, live for those moments that you can’t put into words, and work to change your delta; the world.