Ari Tommy Hazelman grateful for training

A man who became the first Samoan to complete the prestigious Duskin Leadership Training in Japan is ready to share his knowledge and skills with local organisations.

Ari Tommy Hazelman, of Vaiala and Siusega, who also has Fijian roots, represented the national disability rights advocacy organisation Nuanua O Le Alofa (N.O.L.A) as a participant in the Duskin Leadership Training Programme.

The programme is designed for young persons with disability living in Asia and the Pacific who have the willingness and the potential to become leaders in their communities.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer on Monday, Mr Hazelman said as part of the programme they studied leadership, the Japanese social welfare system and the Japanese Disability Movement.

The objective of the training is when the participants return to their home countries, they will play an active role to assist their Governments work on issues such as disability accessibility as well as advocate for their rights. 

The programme also included a three-month Japanese language and braille course, according to Mr Hazelman.

“Their idea was if you learn the Japanese language and Japanese braille, for me as a blind person, I will be able to communicate very quickly with the Japanese and also adapt very quickly to Japanese life as well as learn their ideas and why they want to develop what they have developed,” he said.

“And also if you know another person’s language you would be easier to understand their concepts and ways of thinking.”

Mr Hazelman further stated that after the Japanese language course from September to December last year, they were asked to participate in group training, where they went on site visits to some of the Japanese rehabilitation centers as well as learn from pioneers in the Japanese Disability Movement.

He also had the opportunity to experience Japanese family life when he went to host Japanese families and participated in the traditional new year's feast as well as learn more about Japanese culture. 

Mr. Hazelman explained that he also got the chance to ski which described as “a good and frightening experience.”

He also had the opportunity to visit the Japan Braille Library and participated in a radio interview to highlight some of the issues that Samoa needs as well talk about his experiences in Japan.

"I also got to produce some braille books in their library and also just to build up the network, just build up the network with them,” he said.

The programme also saw Mr. Hazelman being taken to an organisation in Osaka which introduced him to the concept of audio description for films and documentaries.

“This audio description concept is very important because it will allow people to actually access the whole, not just part of a documentary or film, but the whole part of a documentary, and when you go to museums you can actually get audio descriptions of the exhibits that are in the museum,” he said.

“In that organisation they made me a member of their Digital Audio Library which is a Library that is, that has all the information for the blind in the audio format and also audio described films, so that can help me to advocate here in Samoa for these kinds of things to go on, to happen."

Upon returning to Samoa, Mr. Hazelman said he will apply the knowledge he gained with the work that N.O.L.A is currently doing. 

N.O.L.A currently provides him with the platforms to access their members and introduce these concepts to them and also to mentor them and be part of the national discussion.

He added that a major benefit for the Samoa Blind Persons Association (S.B.P.A), which he brought back from his training is networking with the Japanese, such as getting them to come and do training in Samoa or find ways to provide the materials in Samoa.

Mr. Hazelman says he can also help introduce the concept of audio descriptions in Samoa and assist the Government to begin implementing the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

He then thanked the government and the people of Japan for their hospitality and kindness for the duration of his training in Japan and N.O.L.A. for the opportunity to represent them.

"Just want to sincerely thank my parents, siblings and grandma and the rest of my families and friends in Samoa and abroad for their support and encouragement to me during the programme," he said.

"Thanks also to N.O.L.A and S.B.P.A. for allowing me to represent them. Thanks also to my new friends in Japan and those Samoan students who came with me on repatriation for their support."

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