Monday, June 4, 2012

Washington D.C. Week 1

Martina Ming

5 AM Tuesday: I woke up to say good-bye to my sweet husband for 2 and a half months.  I couldn't hold back my tears, but I looked bravely towards the adventures in store for me.  This summer, I am afforded a wonderful internship opportunity through the American Association of People with Disabilities.  This program provides interns with internship opportunities in the public, private, and nonprofit sector, as well provides them with a "package deal": all-expense paid travel fares, housing, as well as a stipend for the summer.

We began our summer experience with a four day orientation meeting this week, beginning Tuesday morning.  I've learned so much already from a myriad of presenters who are successful in their careers (each affiliated with disability rights) as well as other interns who are making their way to their careers.  In this short time, I've learned about the disability community, opinions, terms, issues, etc. and there is still so much more to learn. Our discussions have opened up a whole new world to me--disabilities in action.  There is a constant battle to acquire and maintain our rights, such as employment and accessible buildings and buses.  It sounds corny, but I didn't know how big the community is, yet it is still small enough to be close knit if we all support each other.  We need to stick together and push in the same direction to grow stronger, and to do that, we need to communicate.  It's been such a pleasure to interact with such passionate and friendly people.  This group of interns as well as our advocates embody the fair and respectful demeanor that we should carry for all people--as equals.  Many have become good friends already (thank goodness!).  I'm really looking forward to getting to know them better.

I will be interning with an organization called Disability Rights International (DRI).  This organization works with the local government of various countries for the closure of institutions for those with disabilities, and advocates societal integration instead.  They fight for human and disability rights through on the ground investigation, media, govt. documents, etc. to make sure the govts. uphold their agreements on disability rights.

Currently, many developing countries place those with disabilities including physical and mental, in institutions and deny them of legal rights, social integration, and quality care.  If you check out DRI's website here, you will see the conditions in an institution in Mexico.  It's devastating to think that if I were in any one of these countries, I would automatically be thrown into an institution despite my intellectual ability, denied my legal rights, and forced to live in less than inhumane conditions.  Well, that is how these people have to live each day--as second class citizen.  This definitely reminds me of how people with disabilities were one of the first to be targeted by the Nazi's during WWII era.  Why is a person subject to such cruel treatment, just because of their noticeable disability.  I'm a firm believer that each and every person in the world has quirks and a disability of some sort.  Therefore, no one has any right to hurt another in that cruel manner.  Well, DRI is out there to fight this system and make way for those with disabilities to stand up for themselves.

My job this summer is to research documents and laws specifically on women and girls and disabilities for particular countries, to acquire legal support for presentation before councils, in addition to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  My supervisor told me to be prepared to wear many hats as this is a small organization.  I'll work hard every step of the way in order to get the most out of my internship.  I'm very excited for the tasks ahead and for all that I will learn. 

I look forward to this summer to learn more about rights and how to become an effective advocate.  Hopefully, I will leave this summer with further direction for my life.  I'm grateful for AAPD for the numerous ways of supports we as interns have received thus far.  I love D.C. and I can't wait to see what lies ahead on this path.

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