Break the Limit
Meet the man who brings hope to people with disabilities in Bali...
If it wasn’t for the courage of I Nengah Latra, Puspadi Bali – (short for Yayasan Pusat Pemberdayaan Penyandang Disabilitas Indonesia or Indonesia’s Disabled Empowerment Center) may have never existed for almost 20 years now. And without Puspadi Bali, hundreds or thousands of people with disabilities in Bali may still be exiled from the society and never get a chance to make their dreams come true. Indeed, Mr. Nengah Latra (NL) has brought light to the lives of disabled people on the island, giving them hope and encouraging them to trust what their future may hold. To Bali & Beyond (BB), he shares his struggle and visions...
BB: Could you please tell us how it all began?
NL: It is actually quite a long story but I’ll try to make it simple. I had an accident when I was in my fi nal year in high school. The kerosene lamp that we used at home suddenly exploded and burnt almost 60 percent of the right side of my body. I remember the doctor claimed I would no longer be able to live normally because my right hand became totally dysfunctional. Since the incident, I was exiled from society. I was devastated and my parents were ashamed of my condition – they thought what happened to me was karma. I wasn’t allowed to go outside of the house for two years until one day someone from a foundation in Yogyakarta found me and offered to have me join a skill training program. My whole life totally changed since then. I went to Yogyakarta after a tough negotiation with my parents, and there I met new friends with disabilities who came from all over Indonesia. They spent 11 years working as electricians, gardeners and administration staff. I also got a job – my last position was as a manager in a handicraft company. Finally in 1998, after gaining enough knowledge and skills, I decided to go back to Bali and do something for my own hometown.
BB: What did you do when you arrived in Bali?
NL: It wasn’t as smooth as I expected. I started building my own foundation as soon as I returned to Bali, aiming to help as many disabled people as I can in my hometown, Karangasem. But years later – in 2002 to be exact – the Bali bombing happened and destroyed everything I have built. I lost my regular donors because almost no one was willing to stay in Bali. The situation was so distressing that I don’t actually want to remember it. At that time, I shut down the foundation and went back to my village with my wife and our newborn baby.
I complained to God and kept asking why He let this tragedy happen to me when all I wanted to do was to help other people, especially those with disabilities. God answered my prayers the next day. I suddenly remembered that there was one loyal customer of the handicraft company where I worked in Yogyakarta who lived in Ubud. I met her and told her about what I was trying to build in Bali. She stated that she and her friend from Manchester were planning to build a foundation in Bali and she asked me to prepare a proposal.
BB: So, how did Puspadi Bali finally work together with Annika Linden Centre?
NL: It happened after I met Mark Weingard whose fi ancée, Annika Linden, was killed in the Bali bombing. Mark is the founder of the Annika Linden Centre. As a token to commemorate his late fiancée, he built a foundation focusing on raising funds for education for all children whose parents were the victims of the Bali bombing.
I invited Mark to go to the eastern part of Bali and let him see the conditions in Karangasem. There, he saw that Bali is beyond what he sees all the time. As one of the world’s renowned exotic islands, Bali still hides an alarming condition where hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities live with limited access to the world. Once Mark saw the reality, he decided to give his support and asked me to work together with his foundation. In 1999, Puspadi Bali officially became a part of the Annika Linden Centre.
BB: What is your biggest concern throughout this journey?
NL: I want to break the notion that being born with a disability is a shame. I want people to think the other way around; that being disabled has nothing to do with karma. And to the disabled people, I want to encourage them and make them see that disabilities can’t stop them from becoming a great person in the future.
BB: What is the focus of Puspadi Bali today?
NL: We are still growing. Today, Puspadi Bali provides rehabilitation, education, training and advocacy programs for people with disabilities. There are around 400,000 people with disabilities on this island now, and we are committed to transform their lives by giving treatments, prosthetics, orthotics and wheelchairs. Furthermore, we also connect them to organizations that offer surgeries to improve their physical functions and independence.
Annika Linden Centre
Jalan Bakung No. 19, Tohpati
By Wiwin Wirwidya
Magazine issue > Profile&Potrait