I believe in working hard. I have a dream to run my own business, afford a home of my own, and support my family. I know that to get there, I have to work hard. Probably a lot harder than others without a disability. But I don’t mind at all. I’m grateful for what I have today, and for the support of the people around me. Their love and care has allowed me to come this far in my journey.
I was born in Central Java, Indonesia. When I was born, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. I am the only child in my family as my mother miscarried six times after I was born. My parents are not well-to-do, but they take good care of me. As a toddler, I had trouble walking because of my condition. I only managed to take my first steps when I was three years old. My family has never given up on me. I lost my father some years ago, but my mother has continued to be my pillar of support.
Growing up, I struggled with my lessons at school and was often made fun of by my classmates for being slow. The constant bullying and taunting was unbearable. I felt alone and frightened a lot of the time. Not belonging was a horrible feeling – painful and awkward as if I was wearing someone else’s shoes.
Things changed when I was referred to a Special School for children with disabilities. I was nine years old when a teacher at my new school introduced me to Special Olympics Indonesia. It changed my life.
I got involved in various sports initiatives with Special Olympics which helped in my physical and social development. I tried various sports including bocce and badminton. I never thought that I would be able to do sport with my condition. It felt so empowering to be on the court, scoring a point, and seeing the joyful faces of friends and team-mates cheering me on. Sport made me feel strong, both physically and mentally.
My journey with the Special Olympics movement has been a magical one. From sport, I went on to join the Athlete Leadership Program, which helped me gain confidence as a speaker and advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. In 2011, I had the chance to represent Indonesia at the Global Youth Summit held in conjunction with the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens. It was a life-changing experience.
It was my first time stepping on a plane and experiencing the world stage. I was overwhelmed with the opportunity to meet so many like-minded people, with and without disabilities, from all over the world; all wanting to fight for one common cause – inclusion.
I returned from Athens inspired and motivated, and with a new-found belief that I can do more for the cause and for myself. Since then, I have been involved with Special Olympics Indonesia to advocate for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, giving speeches and presentations at various events and platforms to spread awareness within the country and abroad.
In 2018, I joined youth leaders to represent the Special Olympics movement at the Asian Development Bank’s 6th Asian Youth Forum in South Korea. I put in a lot of effort to prepare for my presentation during the forum, where I had to address a 1,000-strong crowd. I rehearsed and rehearsed, day and night. I was determined to do a good job, because I wanted the world to know what people with disabilities are capable of. Words cannot express my joy and pride when I heard the thunderous applause after my speech.
Over the past few years, I have worked hard to improve myself. I was awarded a scholarship from the Ministry of Social Development to complete my studies, and graduated from the Bogor Agriculture Institute for Vocational Education Majoring in Fishery in 2018.
Since graduation, I have been exploring ways to kick-start my own business, by selling toys and perfume. Although it’s a small step at the moment, my dream is to become a successful entrepreneur so that I can one day support my loved ones.
Like every one of us, my hope is for an equal chance to show the world what people with intellectual disabilities can do. Give us time and opportunities in your offices and workplaces, in your schools, in your social circles, and in your sports teams. My dream is a simple one – to be accepted, to belong, to feel like I’m finally walking in my own shoes.