Otto: Scoring Goals for Public Service in Indonesia

Ottoby Kate Otto (RI ’07)

I would imagine that for most
people, a group of HIV-positive recovering heroin addicts playing a football
(soccer) match may not appear to be public service.  And before beginning
my year-long consultancy at an Indonesian drug rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS
center (as a Luce Scholar), I must admit that I also did
not yet understand the unique service these young people had to offer.

Yet over the past year working
a management and program consultant, I have come to learn that it is indeed the
most marginalized members of society, in informal settings like the football
pitch, who have the greatest power to meaningfully serve their community. 
Particularly on an issue as controversial as HIV/AIDS in Indonesia. 

Inside the office, more than 80
percent of Rumah Cemara staff are living with HIV, and more than 90 percent are
recovering drug addicts, taking the concept of “Peer Support” to the
next level!  RC thus allows people most affected by HIV and addiction to
transform their challenging experiences into valuable education and counseling
services for their peers in need.  On the football field, every week,
Rumah Cemara strategically engages young audiences first in sport and then in
education, effectively decreasing the stigma surrounding the virus by opening
their own statuses – and space for discussion – after the game.

I am thrilled to have helped
support Rumah Cemara’s application in the recent Nike/Ashoka “Changing
Lives Through Football” Competition, and even more excited that they were
 awarded the Grand Prize of $30,000, and significant
institutional support. 

Although I was one of the only
members of an office who did not have HIV and who did not have a history of
drug abuse, I was still able to channel their philosophy of “peer
support”, because at the end of the day we were all committed to achieving
the same public health goals.  While I offered strategic programming, data
management, marketing, and organizational advice, I received in return deep
insight into the best (and oftentimes most underfunded) HIV prevention and care
techniques and strategies, from the front lines.

When I first became a Truman
Scholar in 2007, it was my work on various HIV/AIDS initiatives that most
defined my leadership in public service.  Three years later, I am happy to
report that while still in the HIV/AIDS field, my own experiences have gained
breadth and depth, as I have the privilege to work alongside leaders in public
service from all walks of life. 

Please take a look at Rumah
Cemara’s application to learn more about their philosophies, vision, and plan
 here, and thank you to all who participated in
voting for Rumah Cemara’s victory!

Kate Otto (RI ’07) is a public health consultant, and graduate of NYU Wagner
with a Masters in Public Administration program in International Health Policy
and Management (2009).  For more
information on Rumah Cemara please visit:

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