|Posted on:||Monday, 26th September, 2016|
Matthew Hanning is CBM’s country representative for Indonesia. He lives there with his wife Aline, who trains teachers of children who are deafblind in the South-East Asia region. In this blog, Matthew talks about his working life with CBM, from volunteering at a school for deaf and deafblind children in Jordan to working in Indonesia.
I first got to know CBM when I went to Jordan as a volunteer during my gap year before University, where I was working at a CBM partner called the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf not far from the capital, Amman.
The Holy Land Institute is a school and resource centre for deaf and deafblind children and young people, providing education and vocational training to over 140 children aged 3-20. It also has an audiology department, Sign Language development and teacher training units and much more. It was here that I first came into contact with disabled, particularly deaf, children.
There was one child in the Kindergarten class who made a strong impression on me, and who taught me a lesson I still remember many years on.
In a room full of deaf children, one boy stood out. In addition to being profoundly deaf, he had a rare syndrome which, among other characteristics, had left his face permanently and severely scarred. But the love and warmth the other children showed him, and how they looked out for him, meant that he was teaching them more about life than any of the lessons they had at the school.
Sadly, he passed away a few years later, but his impression on me was such that in the years since, I still remember him well.
I went on to finish my studies in Disability and Development and returned to Jordan on two occasions. It was there I met my wife Aline, who was a volunteer teacher at the school.
Years later, I took up the job as CBM’s Country Representative in Indonesia. With a population of over 250 million and hundreds of languages and cultures, Indonesia is a fascinating place, with a diversity as vast as the country itself. While there has been a lot of economic expansion, there is still wide-scale inequality, with millions of people living below the poverty line on less than $2 a day, and of those, many live with some form of disability, often stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty and disability.
CBM’s main aim here in Indonesia is to work with local partners towards reducing the burden of inequality for disabled people. CBM is working in 10 provinces across the country to reduce avoidable blindness, improve mental health services and work towards inclusive development along with local communities. Blindness is one of the leading causes of impairment in the country, but eye health services are not always distributed evenly or of sufficient quality to meet all the needs.
CBM is part of a new consortium to significantly reduce avoidable blindness in children. This project is supported by Seeing is Believing, a collaboration between Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, involving CBM and other international NGOs working with local governments in Indonesia to screen children for refractive errors, and provide low vision and eye health services in three provinces, so that children can access sight-saving treatment and make the very most of their remaining vision.
Over a 5 year period almost 1 million children will be reached. This will be achieved by building sustainable models to identify children and by improving capacity, training and referrals in the health system. By combining skills and expertise through this collaborative effort, we can have a big impact on childhood blindness in Indonesia.
While there isn’t a ‘typical’ working day at our Country Office, much of my time is spent with my colleagues, our local partner organisations, government departments and Disabled People's Organisations. We try to ensure that our work is high-quality, well-resourced and working alongside disabled people to make positive changes in their lives. We are also working on ways to share and distribute CBM’s technical knowledge and expertise to as many organisations as possible.
With all that said however, the aim of my job is relatively simple: it is to help bring about change for millions of people living with blindness and other disabilities in Indonesia, so that they can enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.
Without the help of our supporters, this work would simply not be possible. Therefore I would like to thank you for all your thoughts, prayers, and support for myself and my colleagues around the world who are united in achieving this goal.