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.

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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!

New activities coming with the sun at IHF Aceh

by Emily, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

Last week was filled with exciting changes at the IHF Center in Banda Aceh! MR Aceh Nov 3For the first time in a long time, it didn’t rain for a few days in a row—or at least, not heavily. With the sun came some new registrations, and we were happy to see the new students attending classes enthusiastically right away.

The children took full advantage of the good weather, initiating group frisbee games in the garden.

The boys in SD 5 and SD 4 MR Aceh Nov 5have invented a new game that’s a mashup of soccer and frisbee. A team of two stand arms length apart facing a solitary opponent. The opponent gets a few shots—the number seems to depend on how much the player protests when told his turn is over—to shoot the frisbee between the two boys opposite him. When it’s time for class, they are quite energized by the friendly competition.

This week, we were thrilled to begin our art/music classes. On Tuesday, an American completing a teaching fellowship with a local university has kindly offereMR Aceh Nov 4d to run our SMP and SMA class. This week, they folded a piece of paper into three parts. Swapping the paper around, they each competed a separate section of a person—the head, the body and the legs—without seeing what the others had drawn for the other sections. When unfolded, the creations were really cool.

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On Wednesdays, we have our SD1-6 art class and it was so much fun! We had them draw and then cut up their drawings into puzzles. We quickly found that putting the puzzle back together is a lot tougher than expected, especially when the young ones insist on cutting their A4 sheet into tiny pieces. Everyone had a blast and left looking forward to music class next week.

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From the frantic Jakarta to chilling out in Bali

by Naheed, Voluntourists, IHF Bali

This week is our last full week in Bali. The last few weeks have flown by and my daughters and I will be sad to go. But our time here has been both worthwhile and relaxing. We came here from the IHF Jakarta centre which is a total contrast to Bali. Jakarta was20141105_102759 hectic whilst Bali is relaxed and laid back.The Balinese people are so welcoming and gracious, their easy going and happy outlook on life is what makes Bali a place many people visit and revisit.

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Living at the centre has been great fun with our fellow volunteers who are an amazing group of people from all over the world, and within the local community people have been so friendly and charming. Teaching at IHF Bali has been challenging and rewarding as the children have a very carefree attitude to learning. I think one of the things I will take away with me from my time in Bali   will be how to chill out!

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Glasses to see the world!

by Helene, Co-Director, IHF Jakarta

This week, our biggest news is that our “Glasses project” has finally become a reality! Since my arrival to IHF, I slowly started noticing that many of our students couldn’t see properly. Eyes blinked all the time, children moved closer and closer to the whiteboard throughout the class, words were misspelled repeatedly and while I know, my writing is not very pretty, it couldn’t be blamed only on this. In June, with the help of our volunteers, we conducted a vision check for the whole center and got an impressive list of 35 students unable to read the small letters on the vision test.

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We were ready to start the project, but a few setbacks pushed the project further and further down on the “to do list” of IHF Jakarta. The summer passed and I was personally starting to think it wouldn’t happen. At IHF, we always have new ideas and we always want to do more, but with our daily activities, we often get so busy that it is hard to accomplish everything.
In October, I started reviving the project with Venny, one of local volunteers, but it wasn’t until one of our kind old volunteers, Anthonius showed up with an envelope full of money that I knew it was going to happen.
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His mom made a donation for glasses to be bought and this was the push we needed, that simplified it all, as we knew we didn’t need to fundraise the money first anymore. With the help of Ayu, we visited some neighboring optic shops and today, our first four kids got the chance to get new glasses!
They look all extremely cute and we hope that this will be life changing for them, allowing them to focus on understanding the class, not on seeing the board anymore.
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Happy Birthday Kak Arnau!

by Ade, Ayu, Arrnau and Rahma, IHF Jakarta

Happy Birthday, Kak Arnauuu!! :D
Wish you all the best and many happy returns.

We call it in Indonesian language:

Arnau's Cake BirthdaySelamat Ulang Tahun, K Arnau!! Semoga panjang umur, sehat selalu, dimurahkan rezekinya, sukses buat semuanya yaa… :)

This week K Arnau, Rhama, Ade, and Ayu went to Tidung Island. It was such a nice place. We had a really good time there.We left on Saturday and came back on Sunday. It was the first time for Ade, Rahma and Ayu for boating and snorkeling.

It took about two hours and a half to get there. In the first day we went to the sea for snorkeling. It was a really fun experience. We saw a lot of fishes and corals under the sea. Then, we took a bath and we went to the beach to see the “Jembatan Cinta” which means “The Love Bridge”. It was such a beautiful beach with its lovely bridge.

There were a lot of people that went to see the beach as well because it had a IMG-20141111-WA0001beautiful view. Some people were having banana boats and doughnuts games. It was a little bit scary but at the end it was so exciting. More over, we took some photos together to remember the wonderful day. At 05.00 PM we went to buy some food for dinner. After that, we came back home to have dinner together and played UNO.

On Sunday morning Ade, Ayu and Rahma gave a surprise to K Arnau to celebrate his birthdayIMG-20141111-WA0009,we sang a happy birthday’s song for him and gave him a T-shirt as a present after Arnau’s birthday celebration we went to ‘The Love Bridge’ again by bicycle. In the bridge we took a walk to see another island close to the Tidung Island. There, we also took some photos because we love to take selfies.

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After walking for a long time, we went home and had breakfast together.

Lastly, we prepared our stuff and went to the station to take a boat to get back to Muara Angke, Jakarta.

It was a great weekend, Thank you so much, K Arnau for inviting us to this beautiful island.

Once again, Happy Birthday to you!! : D

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The older, the more hardworking?

By Jing T, Work-study, IHF Bali

One of the things observed and felt by many volunteers is that at IHF Bali, the older the students are, the more motivated they seem to be in learning English. Take the senior class as an example: the percentage of students doing their homework is much higher than the elementary or junior ones, and especially when it comes to topic discussion, the seniors make real efforts trying both to understand and be understood.

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The most striking group should be the ones who have already tried their hands at working. Realizing that having good command of English helps them secure better jobs, they try to make the most of their time spent at the center, which, at the same time, is equally delightful and fulfilling on the part of our volunteers.

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Childhood Memories

by Ana Cecilia, Work-Study, IHF Kenya

All my life I have taken many things for granted. I guess not everybody realizes that many of the things we have in our lives are special in many ways.  Life can start, continue and end without worrying about major complications, and that doesn’t mean that our life is boring, or that it is not special, it just means that we are very lucky to have the opportunity to live without worrying, suffering, or being at risk.
I had never felt these emotions until the other day my mother sent me some pictures of me when I was little. It was very nice to see them, to see myself as a young girl, with the same hair, the same smile, the same energy; in that moment I started thinking about my childhood, and I realized I was a really happy kid but also an extremely privileged one.

I have been living in Kenya for more than two months, sharing a home with seventy children and teenagers from Pokot, and as days have passed by I’ve had the chance of getting closer with some of them, meeting their families background and life stories, but also understanding what they have been through.

 When you take a break to think what such a terrible life they have and when you realize that the kid who is living with you has been through things such as abandonment, family violence, alcoholic parents, starvation, child labor, among many other hard situations, the heartache becomes unbearable.

It is true that poverty is present wherever you go. The poverty in Kenya is no different from the poverty of Mexico, or other countries struggling with a situation of underdevelopment and inequality. Certainly there are levels, and there are different conditions, but when it comes to the life of a child, any situation in which they are not receiving the love of their parents and basic needs, there is already something wrong. Sofi and Me
Then I think about my childhood, the way I grew up, the artistic afternoons with my mother; the trips around my country in which I learned about history, culture; my education; my dancing classes; the love and support of my parents; the opportunities I got to develop all my skills and to get to know my strengths and weaknesses. I have always been grateful foSofi and Me2r the way my life has developed, but I had never realized how lucky I was.

Even though these comparative thoughts are a sad reality, I think that one of the things that all the kids of the world have in common, in easy or difficult situations, is that they are all small human beings that remain innocent, joyful, and creative. They don’t know if they are privileged, or if they are living an unfortunate situation, because they are just enjoying their lives and adapting to what life puts them through for them.  This is why here in IHF Kenya you will always find a smile in the children faces, have a great time playing with them, and admire their strength and resistance to situations in life.

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After the storm comes the calm!

by Emily, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

The floods have receded here at the IHF Center in Banda Aceh! Our fears that the water level in our garden/pond would rise into the house were fortunately unrealized (although one of our classroom’s took a rather large, wet beating). After a big center cleanup, we were ready for classes. At long last the sun was shining down on Banda Aceh. And it was very very very hot.

Aceh MR Nov 8 2Our new co-director, Dustin, is an ultimate frisbee player and brought frisbees for the center. The children were timid at first, but have come to love and look forward to before and after class frisbee time. On Saturday, the SD2 and SD3 children formed a circle in the garden and tossed among themselves.

We were so impressed with the way they shared the Aceh MR Nov 8 1new toy. Usually, only the boys play football before class, but frisbee is a physical activity both the boys and girls enjoy together. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and we found ourselves being pulled into the game. It was so much fun to laugh with the children and watch them steadily improve at catching and throwing.

Our SMA class is continuing great work with their creative English project. They’re imagining their own country called Glove. Every week, we discuss a new topic in Glove and post blog entries. The students love receiving comments and are encouraged when they get a lot of ‘views’. On Saturday, a comment prompted a wonderful discussion about education. They had previously decided that teachers should all be paid the same amount, but the commenter brought up a point about good and bad teachers. The students became adamant that good teachers should be paid more. But how do you evaluate teachers? After an hour-long discussion (using great English), they changed their entire system. You can see their conclusion at http://thecountryofglove.wordpress.com Aceh MR Nov 8 3

Reading Lessons in Jakarta

by Helene, Co-Director, IHF Jakarta
As you already know, our volunteers are essential to the functioning of our centers. So when we get the chance to have young volunteers wanting to involve themselves and create new projects with us, we always welcome them. Recently, Ayu and her uni friends decided to re-start our reading class for SD1 students and we are very happy to see that they are now all making big progress. Many SD1 students are behind at school for reading because they are expected to know how to read when entering school, after finishing kindergarden, but not all parents can send their children there. Many students double their first year as they cannot catch up with other students. We are grateful for their time spent on this difficult task.
 20141027_140726Additionally, they also started a project for our Aflatoun class – a leadership, social and entrepreneur class we conduct in partnership with another NGO – for SD5 students. It is really interesting to see them so passionate when teaching and we can see the students are having a great time!
Finally, last week, Naheed and her family left us to go to the Bali center. It was great having them around and we would like to thank them for their great help and wish them a wonderful time in our other center!
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Exploring their artistic skills in Medan

by Aditi, Co-Director, IHF Medan

It was a busy week at IHF Medan. Along with the ongoing classes, an art workshop was organized for all the children. The workshop was held in the afternoons after School hours and before the scheduled classes at center. 20141027_124122 (2)Sessions for children were held each day for 1.5 to two hours, according to the level of children.

The workshop was held with the idea to explore the creative side of children. Art has proven to cultivate significant skills that aid development in children. It helps a child to interact with the world around her/him. It is helpful in developing skills of self-expression and communication. Art also helps in development of skills including problem-solving, social and emotional and fine motor skills among others.

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The sessions were taken by Aditi and included thread painting, leaf painting, finger art, mixed media. Level of difficulty under each progressed with the level and age of children. The workshop was held for all classes including SD1, SD2, SD3, SD4, SD5, junior and senior students. SD6 will have their workshop next week. At the end of the workshop, the work of children would be put on display and parents would be invited to see their wards’ work of art.

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Children seemed to enjoy it and had joyful expressions through out the sessions. Some were unsure of what were they doing initially when they started the sessions but soon got into the flow and started enjoying. Some produced great pieces of art work. Thread painting was the most enjoyed session throughout and across classes. The children were delighted to see different patterns being formed with thread and colors. It  was observed that girls participated in higher numbers than boys. We hope to change this trend the next time that we organize another creative workshop.

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