Supriyadi was still wearing his Red Cross uniform when strong earthquakes struck his house in Klaten, Indonesia, on May 27, 2006. After assisting with the evacuation process of Mount Merapi during the days it was imminent to erupt, Supriyadi had just arrived home as the earth quake occurred. The earthquake caused Supriyadi and his wife to loose their second child, who was only one year old, and left Supriyadi in a paralysed condition due to a fatal spinal cord injury. The wheelchair became his friend after the incident.
It took a while for Supriyadi to recover from his physical and psychological injuries and to gain his self-confidence back. Strong motivation and support from family and friends encouraged him to reflect on his experience in dealing with the disaster. He became determined to help others who are experiencing difficulties to recover after a disaster. Through collaboration with friends and a few earthquake survivors, Supriyadi initiated the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) community. The community acted as a support group for earthquake survivors to share stories and find release from the ‘pain’ they were experiencing. The SCI community also provided essential information on health services and providers in the area.
More than ten years after the 2006 earthquake, Supriyadi and the SCI community are not only working to provide support in the health sector, they are also actively involved in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities organised by the local government. As the leader of the SCI community, Supriyadi often represents the group in DRR related activities, including in trainings, workshops and emergency responses. His involvement in such activities is strengthening his passion to be an influential humanitarian worker.
Supriyadi proves that wheelchair is not a limitation for standing with humanity. He continues to volunteer for the Indonesian Red Cross to be involved in their humanitarian activities. Supriyadi is also working in Muhammadiyah High School in Klaten as a school administrator and a teacher for first aid extra-curricular. He hopes that his actions can contribute to community resilience and encourage voluntary spirit among the younger generation.
Supriyadi also proves that being a person with disability does not erase his ability, capacity or knowledge as a humanitarian worker. The knowledge that he gained through his involvement in disaster events in the past have been strengthened by his experience and ability to empathise with others. Supriyadi believes that persons with disability have the same rights and obligations as other citizens to contribute in developing the country, including to strengthen community resilience towards disaster.
“Not many DRR or humanitarian actors know the right way to assist persons with disabilities, including in an emergency situation. Therefore, persons with disabilities are the most relevant information sources. The focus should shift from concentrating on disability and vulnerability, to accommodating for the capacity and knowledge we have,” said Supriyadi. (Rizma Kristiana, Edit: Saphron G. Stapleton)