Be quiet please!

by Shylie, Work-Study, IHF Bali

Silence in a Bali SD6 class is like finding that lost needle in the haystack: extremely rare but when it does happen; the satisfaction you feelP1060136 cannot be beaten.

What this silence means today, is that I’ve have finally given them something interesting (or difficult) enough that it consumes their thoughts; so much so that there is no time for words. In this particular case, I’ve given them scramble sentences. The first team to unscramble the sentence correctly wins candy – simple! Now maybe it is the candy that is consuming their thoughts; but in my eyes, whatever gets them working hard and gives me even a few seconds of blissful silence in a class of 25 overly-enthusiastic children is a win-win. Wouldn’t you say?

In saying that, SD6 would have to be one of my favorite classes. Their eagerness to learn (or win candy in this case) exceeds every other class. It took a little getting used to at first: I didn’t know whether to “shoosh” them or kick them out of class when they would scream and yell. What I soon realized is that this is no ‘western’ classroom, this is the way these eager children learn. Their screams are less an act of rebellion and more a sign of interest and excitement to learn and to be involved. What else could a teacher ask for?

I will be leaving the Bali center next Friday and my last class with SD6 will be next Tuesday. I couldn’t have asked for a better class and I am pretty sure I won’t forget in my life!

Celebrating the King’s Birthday!

by Laura, Co-Director, IHF Chiang Rai

King Rama IX has reigned in Thailand since 1946, and this week was his photo1birthday. On December 6th, is also “Father’s day”, as he is the father of the nation. Thai people seem to love and respect him very much, making him the world’s longest-serving current head of state. It’s well-known that you cannot even step on a paper money when it falls down in the floor, because his face is printed on it.

For the occasion, Chiang Rai is full of flags, flowers, lights and portraits of himself (more than usual). There is also a little fair festival, with stands and a stage, well, maybe this is not in his honor, but who knows. People also wear yellow t-shirts in his honor, I went to a restaurant and everyone except me was wearing yellow t-shirts…!!

Kids have almost a week off, joining the King’s birthday with the Constitution’s Day (on December 10th). They are always having days off, since I’m here they had around three, including one “optional day” where they decided going to school or not. And I have been here only for one month. This is one of the few things on which Thailand is similar to Spain, we are always taking days off too!

But to be fair, they deserve those days. They work really hard! They spend most of the day at school and when they come back they start doing their homework, so a break will be good for them. Some children are going to visit their relatives to the village, and I’m sure that will make them very happy. The rest of us will stay at the center waiting for them, and admiring the flags and the flowers of Chiang Rai. The center seems really lonely without all of them!


Snowflakes in IHF Aceh after a wonderful break in Medan!

by Emily, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

Last week, Dustin and I travelled to Medan for our monthly 4-day weekend break. After a grueling 12 hour night bus, we arrived in a seemingly different country from Banda Aceh. Medan is a large, bustling city. Everyone had a place to get to as fast as possible, a huge contrast from the calm flow in Aceh. And the traffic was unbelievable. It seemed to take an hour to get everywhere, making us late for our meeting with Aditi and Lissa, the Medan co-directors. When we finally arrived, we were thrilled to put faces to names at long last. We work with Lissa and Aditi on a daily basis completing our online administrative tasks, but we had never actually met them. It was fascinating to swap stories about the differences between the Medan and Banda Aceh centers. For the rest of the weekend, Aditi and Lissa proved to be incredible hosts, taking time from their Sunday day off to show us around the city and ensure we were always well looked after. Their hospitality, kindness and fun spirits made the weekend positively fantastic! We can’t wait for them to visit Banda Aceh, both to return their hospitality and to see our new friends again.

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Back in Banda Aceh, classes went very well. The Wednesday SD art class has quickly become my favorite time of the week. Timi and I realized we were missing Aceh Nov 23 5snow terribly after I received news that my hometown had a giant snowstorm. To bring a little of winter to the children of Banda Aceh, we had them make snowflakes in art class. They were confused at first—they didn’t understand what we were making—but once they understood, we were happy to see them playing around with different cuts and folds. The boys especially had a blast with the assignment. It wasn’t your classic nor’easter, but the children created a winter wonderland I’ll never forget!

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Happy Teachers Day!

by Lissa, Co-Director, IHF Medan

Last week was a Teacher’s Day Celebration. It’s one of National events in Indonesia that is commemorated every year by students in Indonesia. It’s the time when the students thank their teachers. ComIMG-20141127-03444monly the students give a flower or a gift to their teacher as an expression of their thankful expression although the teachers will never hope anything back except the progress of their students.

In IHF Medan, this moment was taken by the students to celebrate this Teacher’s Day. One of students named Eva gave a big cake to the teachers in IHF Medan Center. She told us the cake was made by her and her mother. It was really the sweetest moment for the teachers. We don’t have words to express how happy we are with the kids in IHF Medan Center as they feel so comfortable and have so much fun while studying with the teachers. It’s very important to feel closer to the kids. Happy Teacher’s Day!

A new arrival to the IHF Jakarta family!

by Jiayan, Voluntourist, IHF Jakarta

After asking many people for directions and 4 hours of traffic, I finally arrived to the IHF Jakarta center. It was late, but the staff of the center was still waiting for me at the door which made me feel so thankful.IMG_5805 IMG_5686

Everyone in the center is so kindness is like a family, and there are always a lot of lovely children playing around. Happiness in here becomes a very simple thing. I still remember the first day, when I told a little boy who had been looking and smiling at me for a long time: ‘Nama saya Jiayan.’ (My name is Jiayan), he started to jump and dance repeating my name ‘Jiayan Jiayan Jiayan…’  He was so happy, and that time I also laughed as a child. It is such a beautiful life here.

After the classes, children use the traditional Muslim way to hold your hand to their forehead to say thank you. And when you visit the homes of these lovely children and realize    that is so simple, you really want to do more for them.

There is a lot of darkness in the world and we cannot just close our eyes and pretend is not there. IHF is the light that bright their world.


A shot of caffeine at the Coffee Festival!

by Timea, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

The Aceh province is world famous for coffee and last week a big and exciting event, the Banda Aceh Coffee Festival, took place in town. Emily, Dustin and I all got really excited about it and we decided that we definitely have to check it out -we wanted to learn and see as much as possible since we are huge fans. There were countless stands with different kinds of coffee, friendly and hospitable sellers, nice food and good atmosphere.

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A local friend of us had his own stand with acoffee in making very special coffee, called ’kopi khop’ or ‘kophi tubruk’. The point of this was that they put the coffee cup upside down in the saucer and thus served the coffee accompanied by a straw. There wkopi khopas just a little bit of coffee outside the cup in the saucer on which we had to blow to get more out of the cup. The coffee would then get bubbly and slowly leaked out from the cup into the saucer. We had a lot of fun drinking it and it was very delicious, too.

We also tried several other kinds of coffee; the famous Kopi Luwak, Sanger – a traditional Acehnese coffee, and even coffee made with fresh eggs. Dustin had been craving for crepes ever since he arrived. Here his dreams came true and he could finally have one with chocolate and peanuts :) We had a wonderful time trying all these new things and I believe there is no need to say that we had a sleepless night afterwards!

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The story about Sharon and Kopus

by Ana Cecilia, Work-Study, IHF Kenya

It’s amazing how fast time goes by. This week has felt as one of the fastest ones since I have been living in the center. I must say that each day I like it more. I feel like my relationship with the kids has evolved to another level and they now come to me to tell me about how they are doing, their days, and their worries. It feels good to be a strong support system for them. This week I had the opportunity of getting closer to two of them: Sharon and Kopus,

Sharon is not usually around the center, she goes to boarding school because she got a scholarship for being very good at playing football. This means that when there are classes she is staying at school and sometimes she comes visit us on the weekends; but now that schools have closed and one month and a half of vacations have started she is back home and all the girls are very happy to have her around.

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As I have mentioned, she is a football player, and 3 weeks before coming back she hurt her ankle in a match, so she came back with a cast on her right foot. The time came for the removal and the cast and we went together to the General Hospital, we decided to go in the early morning hoping we would not find a lot of people and they wouldn’t make us wait a long time, and we guessed right. We got there, payed the fee for consultation and removal of the cast, and were called by a doctor, all of this happened in less than 1 hour! Record time for the General Hospital. I was very happy. 

The removal was also quite fast, although the Doctor kept on saying that it had not been applied correctly and she was joking telling us that she should charge us more for removing it because it was very hard. Sharon and I were laughing together. After she got it off, she felt very happy and relieved to be able to put her two sandals and walk normally. We decided to go eat some chips and a soda before heading back to the center.

We had a very nice talk about her life in Pokot, her best friends at the center, as well as her life at the boarding school. She shared with me very nice thoughts about how we need to be patient with everyone and how important it is to love and care for people, no matter who they are. I think she is a very mature and sensitive girl and I felt very happy of having the opportunity of getting to know her better.

Kopus, on the other hand is usually around. He is a very committed student and a hardworking man; he is the only boy from the center that has decided to look for a job to get some extra money, I think this is something worth of admiration. FullSizeRenderKopus is usually quiet when he is around many people, but today that we went to take some “fruit pudding” (The Kenyan way of saying fruit salad) and we went together to the optician, we had the chance to talk better and I really enjoyed it.

He is a very calm but intelligent young man. Even though he is 15 years old, he is about to start with his last year of primary school and he is eager to go to high school. We have this situation of older kids in primary school with many of our kids because when they came to live to IHF they were already 9 or 10 years old, and this is when they started primary school. But this doesn’t mean anything, age is not important when it comes to education.

I wish I still get the chance to get to know better other children at the center; it is starting to feel more like my family as days go by.

My first day in IHF Jakarta!

by Zoe, Co-Director, IHF Jakarta

It was on my first night at the IHF center of Jakarta when I realized that I had to adopt to a completely different reality from what I had known until then. I was in a foreign country, not familiar with the local language, thousands of miles away from my sweet home, my car, my paid job, my comfort and my loved ones. I had to adapt to the chanIMG_4301ge of time and the humid hot weather of Indonesia, get used to the Asian toilets and spicy food, sleep in a tiny room, try not to wake up with the sound of the prays before the dawn, and finally become friends with Jakarta’s most regular visitors, its countless insects.

However, walking out of my room, the next morning of my first sleepless night, I instantly made my first friend in Jakarta. I met the kind Ayu, who lives here at the center with her sweet little sister Rahma. After that, I had one of the most refreshing showers of my life, using the bucket (everything started to make sense about the bathrooms here). Finally, later on that day, during my training I got a reminder of the reason that brought me and will keep me here for months and months, and that was the loud laughter and voices coming from the sweetest little smiley monsters in the world.


Don’t get me wrong, all children are life and happiness, but these ones are even more special. They are children that come from poor families and/or have lost family; they survive through daily and continuous hardships; they live in the slums of Jakarta; and they definitely don’t start their lives with fair opportunities.

Nevertheless, they have this superpower of always keeping on their warmest smiles.They secretly make me laugh even when their naughty and when they put my hand on their little faces, to show their appreciation and respect for what we are doing here, I want to offer them more and more. At those moments, I just forget about everything else and I feel like here and now, we might be doing the most important thing in the world.


French gastronomy prepared by the children at the IHF Bali Center

by Helene, Work-Study, IHF Bali

This week we wanted to propose to our children something fun and instructive.IMG_0849 That is why we decided to do a cooking class with them. We wanted to prepare a simple recipe which could tickle children’s taste buds: FRENCH CREPES!

I do not miss French cuisine so much since I really like Indonesian recipes and flavors but I’m always in for a sweet treat, and the kids even more! We could also consider that as a cultural experiment for our stoma   IMG_0856 IMG_0884chs since we mixed both cultures by eating crepes with fresh bananas and coconut syrup.

It was interesting to see how the children were really focused on following the recipe by counting and cracking eggs, stirring the mixture… We also insisted on the importance of cleaning up after have cooked, but the first thing we all wanted to do was eating our crepes straight away. They looked (and taste) so delicious!       IMG_0875

It was also a good occasion to talk about food with the children: which kind of food they prefer eating, if they help their parents at home (and actually it was the first time cooking of most of them)…

Sharing food is always meaningful and we all spent a very nice Saturday morning together enjoying our crepes (which were not pancakes as we did not put any baking powder!). After filling up all the stomachs, the children left and smiles were on all faces.  IMG_0900

The lanterns (khom) festival in Chiang Rai

by Nathalie, Voluntourist, IHF Chiang Rai

I was lucky because during my first week in Chiang Rai, I could assist to the Lanterns Festival,lamp called Yi Peng. This festival was originally celebrated as an individual event marking the end of the rainy season and the start of the winter but now it takes place at the same time as Loy Krathong. On Wednesday, I went with Laura and some girls of the center: Kantiya, Arisa and Janjira to the north of the city along the Kok River, a tributary of the Mekong.

The girls explained us that we should buy an offer, light up the candle and the incense and put it on the river after praying. It is mostly a piece of a banana trunk decorated with leaves and flowers. floweroffersThat was nice because I had seen the children making their own donations two days before at the center. I bought mine and everything seemed great until… it started raining so hard! Then the only aim was to get to the river avoiding the huge puddles that were on our way and, once there, light up the candle and the incense holding the umbrella at the same time. Finally, we gave our flowers to some little girls who were shoeless and able to cross a part of the river to release them. Later, after releasing two baby turtles with Laura and sharing candy floss with the girls, we went back to the center, it was a lovely day.


The following Friday, I had also a magical experience when all of us released lanterns into the sky from the IHF Chiang Rai center. Their light is significant in Buddhist culture because it represents the change from darkness into a brighter future. That night, fortunately, there was no rain, but there was a lot of complicity, wishes, firecrackers and, above all, pictures…! ☺ Thanks for this unforgettable time!