It was an opportunity of a lifetime for the four graduates of the London School Beyond Academy (LSBA), a school in Jakarta that provides education to students with special needs and abilities.
Jonathan Kenneth Nangoi, M. Abijdzar Alghivari, Reychando Rintar Siregar, and M. Rifqi Adiono – all in their 20s – just finished a three-month internship at the ASEAN Secretariat. The graphic design studies graduates first trained at the ASEAN Foundation in 2019. In March, they began another on-the-job training programme at the ASEAN Secretariat’s Community Affairs Directorate.
Director of Community Affairs Lee Yoong Yoong said “the primary purpose of providing such internship opportunities to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and Special Needs is to demonstrate that ASEAN walks the talk. The ASEAN Secretariat is happy to take the experimental lead in delivering an inclusive, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community through rendering corporate working experience to these PWDs, many of whom are not able to secure jobs upon their graduations.”
Siregar, who loves editing photos, was assigned to the information and resource centre of ASEAN Secretariat. “Here, I could learn more about ASEAN, and I could also see records of presidential meetings (summit) through the old summit photos. I think I will grade myself 10 out of 10 for my internship with the ASEAN Secretariat,” he said.
LSBA Founder Prita Kemal Gani told The ASEAN, “this is a good model. If this internship is a success, maybe other businesses and companies will follow.”
A week into the programme, the ASEAN Secretariat enforced the Jakarta government’s social distancing regulations with a work-from-home scheme. It did not curb their enthusiasm.
“I only worked in the office for one week and the remaining months at home due to the pandemic, but I am satisfied enough with this chance. I enjoyed the work, and I could complete the tasks given to me,” said Nangoi.
All the interns raved about how well they were treated by their mentors. Adiono assisted the ASEAN Secretariat’s photographer Kusuma Pandu Wijaya. “If I make a mistake, he did not get mad at me, and he said that it’s okay to make mistakes,” Adiono explained.
Alghivari worked with the social media team and was equally appreciative of the friendly atmosphere at work. He mused on the stigma that people with disabilities like him still face in the real world. “I used to be treated as a second-grade citizen. People despised me because of my autism,” he said. “With more chances for people with autism to do internship, I hope that people can be more considerate toward us and treat people with autism equally. We can understand normal people, but they also need to understand us. They need to try to learn to understand what we have been through, what conditions we were born with.
The internship programme has opened another door for Alghivari. The ASEAN caught up with the four on video call recently, and he said he was offered a job as an administrative officer at the ASEAN Autism Network. “It’s quite embarrassing,” he said. “I am the only one chosen. I wish their regulations were a bit loose so we could work together again. I miss working together; working alone is not terrible, but it would be better to work together.”
His three other friends were obviously supportive and ecstatic for him but Nangoi had already set his sights on a new goal. He said, “I wish I could work permanently at the ASEAN Secretariat because I love working here.”