Carrying Dr. King's Message Abroad

Sun, January 15, 2012

"A right delayed is a right denied."

Today I am thinking about my grandfather and father gathered around a radio listening to Dr. King saying these words as he fought for the inclusion of people like my family.


How odd that 50 years later I am in Amman, Jordan with a group of people who hold the same belief and are working to ensure that people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) are included in society. I am here with my colleagues Perry Samowitz and Fawzi Abu Hassish as a part of YAI Global Consulting, helping the Government of Jordan to improve services in their country for people with disabilities.

Last April we were here helping them open the first two group homes in Jordan, bringing 12 young men out of an institution and into life in the community. It was a transformative experience. We also have been working to improve conditions for those who remain institutionalized by introducing a dignified and active treatment model. This has produced gains. Now there are recreation programs, gardening and even trips into the community. But there remains much to still be done.

That's what brings us back now. In order to facilitate more independence and inclusion for those people w I/DD in the institutions, we are working to implement a day habilitation program. Day habilitation is based in YAI's philosophy that every person at every level of ability has the right to grow and contribute to society. This program brings that belief to life by creating greater access and fostering productivity through participation in community-based volunteer activities.  At YAI, we have found that people of all ranges of disabilities thrive with the inclusive nature of his program. For many it is their first opportunity to be recognized for what they can do versus what they can't. Here in Jordan, it could not only give the individuals their taste of independence, inclusion and productivity, but also help to change public perceptions about the value of people with I/DD.

Our cohorts in this effort are an incredible group of passionate, talented and dedicated Jordanians. Ghadeer, Mona, Alia, Dr. Amal, Faisal,Reham, Prince Raad-bin Zaid -- people with whom we were unfamiliar initially are now recognized as our champions. They are the pioneers in this modern day social revolution, much as Dr. King was in his day. They have a dream, as well -- that all Jordanians be treated equally and have the same opportunities to live dignified and meaningful lives. They are leading the way but there is a groundswell of support from families, providers and people with I/DD. Using the training and expertise that we are providing, they are forging ahead to a more inclusive future. Perry, Fawzi and I are all very proud to play a part in his transformation and know that we represent the work and talent of thousands of our colleagues at YAI.

Our first day of training was very well received and we are encouraged about what will come of his.

As I relax in my room, I'm listening to the evening prayers from a loudspeaker at the local mosque. They are haunting and beautiful and although I can't understand them, they seem to be saying a change is coming. "Free At last, free at last thank God almighty free at last."