I am not a fan of the tropics. I’d rather go to Antarctica than Bali, though I suspect accessibility might be an issue there – do Canadian crutches [despite their name] and ice go together?
A few weeks ago I received an email from Bali – from Linda – a friend and associate I thought I had lost contact with. I had left a message on her Facebook page so long ago that I had forgotten. She likes Facebook as much as me, so years later she gets around to updating – and sends me an email.
We worked together back in the late 1990s up in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales writing grant applications and delivering government funded projects when we were successful – which was often. We were a pretty good team and kicked some major goals. Linda’s career morphed into working on international aid projects, and I moved south to Katoomba to join NSW Department of Ageing Disability and Home Care. On one of Linda’s aid projects she contracted Haemorrhagic Dengue Fever in Vietnam around the time I got GBS in Katoomba. She was left with a debilitating poly-arthritic disease that created mobility issues as a complication of her Dengue Fever. Linda went to India in search of a cure and found it. It’s a wild story, worthy of a book or movie.
She lives in India most of her time these days, but still travels doing humanitarian work. She returns to Australia regularly to visit family.
Disability support in Bali
For the past 12 years, Linda has been supporting a non-for-profit organisation in Bali called Yayasan Penduli Kemanusiaan (YPK) Bali, founded in 2001. Linda tells me a rough translation of the name is ‘humanitarian care foundation’. Bali doesn’t have a National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] or even strong legislation to support people with a disability, so people living with a disability rely on…well YPK Bali and similar organisations. That’s it. To date, YPK has helped 5,234 people with physical disabilities, and has conducted 59,950 hearing checks. The organisation survives on volunteers, and grants in an increasingly constrained pool of opportunities. It does astonishingly well with what it can pull in, but it’s a constant struggle, and it shouldn’t be.
Bali’s population is around 4.36 million. In Australia the prevalence of disability in the community has been estimated at 1 in 6 or 1 in 5. I don’t know what would be a fair figure for Bali, but for the sake of this argument I will propose 1 in 10 to make my point. That’s 436,000 people – not all of whom will require support or services. Let’s say only 25% do – that’s 109,000 people, but if the number is only 10% that’s still 43,600 people. YPK is one of only a handful of services supporting people with disability.
YPK was set up by Purnawan Budisetia, who is regarded as the father and leader of the organisation. He sadly died September 2022, leaving a gulf in skills in international networking and fundraising. Linda is the senior consultant, working pro bono for YPK. She is the only westerner, and the only one who can write grant applications and provide marketing strategies for YPK to help it continue to raise the funds that it needs to continue its work. The difference between Balinese culture and the European culture [the source of grants] is significant and this makes grant application writing a major challenge.
What YPK Bali achieves on what, for most of us the smell of an oily rag, is remarkable. For younger readers that image may be unfamiliar, but it’s the difference between a can of petrol and just the fumes. YPK Bali operates on the equivalent of less than USD$186,000 [AUD$282,000] a year. With modest resource it employs 23 staff, and provides equipment and services for rehabilitation, education programs, a mobile rehab clinic to villages, hearing testing for ALL children, and transport for clients to the YPK centre. That’s stretching limited resources impressively.
Why supporting YPK is a smart thing
You may wonder why I would think supporting a disability org in Bali is a good idea when I have been banging on about the lack of movement at home in Australia. Don’t get me wrong. I think supporting YPK has self-evident merit, but it can be a win-win as well. Sometimes taking attention away from ourselves helps our cause.
The contrast between Bali and Australia is telling in several important ways. The currency conversion is, at the moment, AUD$1.00 to 10,241.00 Indonesian Rupiah. When you can divide a dollar into more than 10,000 parts that suggests you can ‘get a lot of Balinese bang for your Aussie buck’. YPK’s annual budget of around USD$186,000 [AUD$282,000] is next to nothing in our terms. That’s around 10 NDIS clients [give or take]. YPK had 222 active clients in February. That’s as well as an education centre [120 kids in February 2023] and a mobile outreach [106 clients in February 2023].
Indonesia has a population of 275.40 million  and a GDP of USD $1.186T. In contrast the GDP of Australia is USD $1.553T, with a population of 25,978,935 in 2022. Even so, we can scarcely afford our NDIS – and our aged care system is seriously underfunded. The prospect of people with disability in Bali being supported by domestic funding is a long way off. This is no criticism of the Indonesian government, just a reflection of the realities of demands on the public purse. It’s tough competition for funding in an increasingly constrained international funding environment. Linda assists YPK by chasing international grants of around USD$30,000 [AUD$45,000] to survive. That’s an exhausting pressure on an organisation that isn’t culturally attuned to seeking funding on European terms.
There is the constant risk of failing to attract sufficient funds. In the aftermath of the global paralysis caused by the pandemic, donors have signalled funding reductions around the world.
Climate aside, visiting Bali would be problematic for me because I would have concerns about accessibility. But I could not, in all conscience, expect publicly funded enhancements to the public space – as I do here. Even what I enjoy here in terms of accessibility isn’t ideal. But it is a huge improvement on how things used to be, and I am grateful.
A google search tells me that Accessible Indonesia is a member of the European Network for Accessible Tourism [ENAT], so perhaps I shouldn’t be so concerned. Still, there’s the climate thing for me.
As I became aware of how things are in Bali, I became acutely conscious of how immensely fortunate I am. Yes, in terms of our expectations, I am doing the right thing in pressing the issue of disability inclusion. But it also seems so much like a ‘first world problem’ in comparison. I can do both – continue to agitate for positive change and support YPK. These days I am on such a limited income I was thinking about having a donate button on my blog. Somehow that now seems self-indulgent. I can afford $10 a month.
Bali has been called ‘Australia’s playground’. It’s only been fairly recently that we have been committed to ensuring our own playgrounds are inclusive. I am a member of my local council’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and I have been deeply impressed by the commitment to ensuring that playgrounds are
inclusive. Great journeys begin with small steps – we must support disability inclusion for people with disability in Bali before we can expect an assurance of accessibility when we visit.
How to help?
There are presently three important ways to help YPK.
- Assistance with fund raising is vital. Ideas for and help in executing fundraising activities are always welcomed.
- Skilled grant application writers for international tenders are immensely valuable. It’s better to have a team than a solitary hero.
- Financial support is foundational. The disparity in currency values means that a little in our terms can have a lot of impact in Bali. There are donation buttons on the website ypkbali.org. The website needs updating to better accommodate potential international buyers of products in their online store. That’s being addressed.
There is a range of things we can do.
- Disability activists can widen their vision from their own imperatives to include a wider perspective on how they can help.
- Disability ERGs can add support for the YPK to their own philanthropic vision.
- Individuals who are people with disability or allies can set up periodic contributions and/or preferentially purchase from the website [when updated]
- Those skilled in grants writing can offer their services pro bono.
- Down the track I can imagine setting up an online community that can actively develop other ways of helping.
Linda has always challenged my thinking, and I have always been grateful, well mostly. It had been around 22 years since we last spoke, and it felt like it was just yesterday. Some readers will understand this sensation.
My focus on disability has been laser focused on my experience and context. That’s perfectly fine. But now that focus has been disrupted and suddenly there’s a far greater dimension to my appreciation of disability. Seeing a kid in a wheelchair in an environment that will not be friendly to wheelchairs causes me to pause. How tough do they have it?
My immediate response was to write something reflecting my reactions to what I have learned. My second was to set up a AUD$10 a month payment to YPK.
A final thought. AUD$282,000 is only 2,350 people donating $10 a month. That’s not much, is it?