We entered the crowd at car free day with nervous laughter. Ashika looked at me and I gazed back with the same thought: How will we communicate our message? Soon we were lost n the crowd with our pink and green flyers in hand. It took us a minute or two to hand out the first one. One after the other it got easier to hand over the informative flyers, but we still hadn’t flexed our scripts in Bahasa. Just as we were nearing the end of our first stack of flyers, surrounded by the community (literally thousands of people), a new energy came over Ashika and I. Ashika looked at me and said, “This is it” and without explanation I knew exactly what she meant. We are halfway through the trip and there has been no shortage of moments that have made me feel like my time here was important on a level I cannot articulate yet, but this one felt paramount to the others.
With our hands empty and energy surging through our bodies we rushed back to the consultation station set up roadside to gather more information and a sign that we could display. We bumped into Cassie and Arshiya (our trip leaders and a Global Autism Project staff member, the heads of this trip) who had been diligently collecting names and phone numbers of people who had any questions about Hi5. They encouraged us to engage the people we encountered in a conversation about Hi5 and to get as much contact information as we could. This was the plan all along. Shinta, Rani and Hotik had given us a script in Bahasa to recite and we had practiced it the past two days, but we were lacking the confidence to execute the plan. Cassie and Arshiya expressed, almost in unison, that they were thinking about what is most important about today and what will help Hi5 long after we are gone and that is gathering as much information from the community as possible so they can sustain interest and provide services to those who are interested. We nodded in agreement, remembering that sustainability was the goal, and set off on our second trip into the crowds.
As we made our way through the crowds, scanning for families with a sign held high I noticed we were getting a lot of attention. Ashika started to hand out a flyer to anyone who had taken a pause to read the sign I was holding. Soon she was asking families if they spoke English “Bisa Bahasa Inggris?” and if they knew about Autism “Kamu tahu Autisma?”. Excitement swelled in me as I saw my SkillCorps team member really start to connect with the community. We would share a smile and a sigh of accomplishment after every family we had reeled in either left with a flyer or left us with their information. Soon we saw people passing who had already received the flyer, which meant our other SkillCorps team members were connecting with the community as well. As we were passing home base Shinta did not look as excited as I felt inside. She expressed that she wasn’t getting a lot of questions from the community and thought it may be better if we stayed near here to filter them to the consultation station.
“Be stubborn with your goal, but be flexible with your method”. This was one of the quotes Cassie had shared with us during one of our (now infamous) “feelings talks”. It didn’t take us long to rally the team around Shinta’s new plan and within minutes there were families and community members approaching Shinta with questions. I looked over at Ashika and exclaimed “This IS it!”. For the next hour we were like a well-oiled machine, I was displaying a sign that roughly translated to “ Parent partnership to help the child succeed” and Ashika was talking with families and sending them to Shinta for more information. The feeling was overwhelming.
I saw my team members and employees of Hi5 REALLY connecting with the community. I felt like I was really connecting with the community. One thing I love so much about my jobs back in the states is being connected with the community as an advocate and raising awareness. Standing in a main street of Bekasi, not a car in sight and surrounded by thousands of community members grasping for information, I began to tear up.
I looked over at Ashika who was connecting with a woman who had a little boy right next to her in her grasp. I overheard the woman say in English “He has Autism.” Without hesitation Ashika walked the woman and the little boy over to the consultation station to speak with Shinta. They waited patiently on the curb as one of the therapists from Hi5 started engaging with the little boy. Ashika and I were overrun with emotion watching as the woman explained her child’s needs and expressed interest in the center. This was it. After the woman signed her son up for the free clinic day Hi5 she personally shook every one of our hands and stopped at Ashika, looked her in the eye, and said “beautiful”. Ashika cried a little and looked over to me and said, “This is it”.