By Melissa Escutia, a member of the SkillCorps Indonesia October 2017 team
“Volunteering abroad” has always been a personal dream of mine. I’ve been trying to volunteer for years and never found a program that matched my passion. I’ve been pretty naïve about global autism as a whole — I truly thought autism in other countries had a low prevalence rate with decent resources. One day, searching the web for organizations or volunteer program I googled “autism abroad” and there was a link to Global Autism Project (GAP). I really liked what I saw. It seemed almost too good to be true. Scared, I waited about 1 year to finally apply. I filled out the application so many times without ever hitting submit. Now, as I’m looking through photos from our excursion, sitting on the airplane flying back to Jakarta, I’m thanking myself for being courageous enough to click that button.
The main reason why I wanted to do this program was because of the passion I have for the field I work in and Autism in general. I wanted to see what Autism in a developing country looked like and of course, help out in anyway I could to grow as an educator. Instead, I grew as a person. Solely because of how GAP carries out the program.
Have I realized what I can truly offer in this field? Yes. Have we worked out ABA in Indonesia to match their cultural differences? Yes. Are we working to make ABA sustainable in Indonesia? Yes. Are we trying to raise Autism awareness in Indonesia? Yes. Have I stepped out of my comfort zone to grow as a person? Yes — and this was something I did not sign up for and still got.
You see, I’m constantly in a state of wanderlust. So the “finding yourself” part of traveling isn’t specifically new to me. It’s how GAP laid out the program that forced me to find myself. They set the morning moods with quotes. They set the night moods with verbally sharing our highlights and low points of the day. We take personality tests, room with strangers from around the country that I now love; all the while teaching educators how to implement ABA strategies across the world. I call that the growth I never asked for — and I thank them for that.