Giving back in Chiang Rai

by Yuxuan Z., Work-Study, IHF Chiang Rai

My first week at the IHF Center was amazing. I was not only refreshed by the peaceful and gorgeous scene in Chiang Rai, but I was also touched by the enthusiasm of the local people, especially the smile of our kids in the Center. While they are getting love and care from us volunteers, they are also giving back. The kids enjoyed playing with the toys I brought them, and they never forgot to ask me to join them when they prepared food of their own. I became friends with the younger kid, Chichi Porn, on the first evening when I arrived here.

We played the game “Hide-and-Seek”, taChichi Pornking photos of each other, and I was surprised to find that she could not only understand English, but also quite a bit of Chinese. We shared with each other how to say “I love you” in Chinese and Thai, and sang Chinese songs together.

After I finished cooking, she would give me the first bowl of rice; when I was washing dishes, she might suddenly show up and give me a hug from behind; after I finished cleaning the yard, she often brought me a cup of cool water to relieve the heat. That’s what I like about volunteering, you are never worn out because their lovely faces will cheer you up.

Being a volunteer is not new for me; but it’s the first time that I have devoted such intensive time and energy to an underdeveloped country, and that I have lived with children day and night. It’s hard to separate working hours from leisure time, since I’m always happy to dedicate myself to whatever needs to be done. And it’s also rewarding and enjoyable, as if I’m taking a fascinating holiday in paradise –Chiang Rai.

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Respect and ‘Fit in’ in Jakarta

by Yanyi, H., Work-Study, IHF Jakarta

I arrived at the IHF Jakarta Center on July 3rd. In the past days, the staff here has been incredibly welcoming and helpful, and the children are just so cute and heartwarming. But the most impressive thing for me is how they respect this place’s own culture.

One thing that surprises me is how wonderfully the Center’s co-Director, Helene, fits in with the local environment. It seems to me that she has almost no difficulty communicating with the people here, both in language and emotionally. Like, when we thought it was because of corruption that I was charged 35 USD for the VOA but only got a receipt for 25 USD, she got so angry about it, as only real Indonesians would. Fortunately, it turned out that the receipts were just not changed in time. Anyway, you can tell that she, as a member of the school, really feels for the people here.

Also, on Friday evening, we had a cultural event at the Center. Right now, Muslims are having Ramadan, the month of fasting, so we held a little ceremony of breaking the fast with about twenty children and some of their mothers together. Many took on traditional costumes and everyone sat together on the floor. It was really interesting and nice for me to join this special occasion with them. We had several kinds of Indonesian cuisine prepared by a lady working at the Center. My favorite one is called “Longtong”, which is rice wrapped in banana leaves.

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On the weekend, a friend of mine from Jakarta took me to the “Taman Mini Indonesia Indah”, which is a theme park that shows culture from different regions of Indonesia. Above all, I am just amazed at the diversity of Indonesian cultures. These cultures differ in architecture, life-style, religion and even language. And I am even more amazed at how Indonesians have kept this diversity until today, because it couldn’t have been easy and it will probably be harder due to globalization. It occurs to me that international organizations like IHF are not just helpers from the outside; by playing a role in education, they become a part of this country, no matter how big or small the part is. So, it is indeed vital to understand the importance of respecting and fitting in. And I think that in that aspect, what I have seen in the Jakarta Center is pretty respectful.

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The Warmer Side of Medan

by Ian, Voluntourist, IHF Medan

Medan is a beautiful city, though it’s my first time visiting here, I have felt the incredible hospitality of its citizens. Hot as the weather, people here treat foreigners with great warmth. It is more than easy to start a conversation with a stranger, even though they might not be very good in English. The natural beauties around the city are spectacular. With the help of the co-Directors at the Center, we have made it to two of the most famous touristic sites near Medan: Bukit Lawang and Lake Toba.

Our Bukit Lawang experience has been one of the most precious among many. I have enjoyed the rainforest like never before. Swinging in a pond and bathing in a waterfall is the wildest thing I have ever done. I just came back from Lake Toba, where the water is so clean that you can clearly see things through it. The weather there is cool, especially in the mountain area. The people in the island are very religious and there are chapels everywhere. The valleys are fresh and green. Streams follow everywhere. You’d never find a place so pure like this.


Though the Medan Center is not so well equipped, it is still cozy. The children at the Center are very cute and the cats are dedicated to keep the place clean. The kids are very eager to learn, though I found it a little bit difficult to communicate with them since their English level is still improving. At the beginning, teaching them English wasn’t so easy, as it is my first time as a teacher. But the more I experience, the better I can do.


My experience in the Medan Center this first week has been great and I believe there is more to come!

Getting used to ‘Kenya Time’

by Stone, Voluntourist, IHF Nakuru

Thanks to ‘Kenya time’, everything slows down. Maybe due to the lack of fixed time, fixed price and even traffic lights. People do things in no hurry. They even start to prepare for supper from the morning and do it all day.

But I gradually got used to the “Kenyan style”, including the food, the accent (-.-) and the always-crowded-by-kids room. Most of the time when we are in our room, there are always curious children, who come and see what we are busying with…so I decided to start a paper-folding workshop, which can be another thing that drives me mad (just kidding). But the kids are really nice and we know that they come to us because they want to stay with us. They draw me (with strange hairstyle and it doesn’t look like me, though), learn Chinese from us (they also try to teach us Swahili) and offer to help with the room cleaning (although they used up half of Alice’s laundry detergent…). Everything is full of fun while staying with them. When Manuel said he will miss us when we go away, I really wished I could stay longer.

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Endings and New Beginnings at Nakuru

by Nora, Work-study Medical Intern, Nakuru

This week, I, along with Alice and Stone, two other volunteers, went to Abraham and Moses’ track race.  It was very exciting to get to see this event in person.  The kids run so much faster than I could ever hope to, and they were barefoot and in skirts!  After suffering some muscle strains, Abraham was able to get second in the 3000 meter event, and Moses got third in the 1500 meter event.  Both of them qualified for the next race on Monday, and we are so excited for them!

One of our directors, Becky, has had her mom visiting for the past two weeks.  Last night was her last night here, so I got to experience my first goodbye tradition.  The kids were all dancing and singing. I tried to sing along, but they were just too good.  It’s rare that all the kids are in one place, united, so it was really lovely to see and experience it.  It was a lively room full of love and laughter and dancing.  It was sad to see her go, and we will miss her. However, another volunteer comes tomorrow and we can’t wait to meet her.

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My Days at the IHF Bali Center

by Vivi, Voluntourist, IHF Bali

I think it’s really lucky that my brother is studying at UNNC, because I had the chance to know about IHF from him! I was planning to have a vacation and, also, I wanted to do something more meaningful, so I thought, maybe IHF was perfect for me. And there you go, I came to Bali and I’m Vivi from China.

I arrived in Denpasar on June 29th, and it was my first time in Bali, but when I met Nancy and Ag​us, who went to pick me up at the airport, I felt familiar and close! And when I arrived at the Yayasa​n —the Bali Center, I knew that I’ve just joined a family!

It’s really beautiful here, the classrooms,the kitchen,the dinning room, the pool, the sea, everything seems perfect to me! Oh, and Hanna, Gregor and their lovely son Damian are really kind!

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June 30 was my first day to be a voluntourist, and it was also the last day for other voluntourists before they left, and four other girls came at midnight. In fact, I was really nervous, for it was the first time to be a “teacher”, I was not very confident that I could do it well, but you know, when you see the lovely students, you’ll soon forget the nervous​ness​.

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As you know, happy times always fly, and now I ‘be been a teacher for a week; I’ve taught ​or shadowed the classes: SD1, SD2, SD4, SD5, Junior and Senior, and I’ve made friends with the children! They’re really amazing, they laugh all the time. It seems that there are no unhappy things in their lives (even though they may not have a lot), and they make you laugh all the time, they make you forget all the unhappy thing​s in your life!

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I love ​it ​here! I ‘ll stay here for another week, but ​I have already begun to ​loathe the thought of leav​ing​: the beautiful scenery here, the good weather; and, mainly, it really upsets me the fact that I will have to part from the children.

The experience of being a voluntourist here is really unforgettable, and I think, I’ll take another chance at being a voluntourist in IHF ​once again, for sure!

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‘Pass it On’ in Medan

by Rafa, Co-Director, IHF Medan

Last week was highlighted by the arrival of three new volunteers from China, the final exams and especially by our “Pass it On” ceremony.

The volunteers have been quite active in the house, talking with the students, playing, helping by doing some instructional posters and supervising the final exams as well.

The previous days to the ‘Pass it On’ ceremony, we proceeded to finish the outer wall in the main entrance. The remaining paint is still today in our hands, reminding us of a job well done. 

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On Saturday afternoon at 5 PM —joining the Indonesian punctuality— the “Pass it On” ceremony started. The party began with a few games, in which the children had to carry marbles on spoons, that are held in their mouths, and walk quickly from one point to another. One of the other games was very funny. They had to eat, without using their hands, a traditional Indonesian biscuit hanging from strings. Many of them were eager to participate and those who didn’t do it really enjoyed watching the others.

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Once we concluded with the games, a “Bob Sponge” natural size character got into the room, he warmly greeted and played with all the children. Lots of kids took photos with him. Subsequently, an excellent magician and better entertainer, with enthusiasm, cheered up the party with his tricks and loquacity.

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When we started giving the prizes to the top three students of each class with the best scores, the magician himself, caught by the atmosphere, stayed with us and even became a funny Master of the ceremony. 


As a kind of farewell to our outgoing co-director Astrid, the kids and mothers gave her hugs, gifts, and of course lots of photos were taken. It really was very touching and kind of them.

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‘Pass it On’ in Jakarta

by Mindaugas, Co-Director, IHF Jakarta

We had a really busy week. Starting from June 16th, we held exams for our IHF students. From June 16th to June 18th we only held math exams, and from June 19th to June 21st we had English exams. Unfortunately, the attendance wasn’t as good as we expected and it can be explained due to children having a holiday and leaving the Jakarta city with their families. Some classes were full as usual, but some had less kids than we anticipated.

The exams were conducted very seriously, and at least two volunteers were supervising it, thus the children did not have a chance to copy answers from their friends. If a class had lots of students, then we would move half of them to a different place, so nobody sits in pairs and etc.

At the same time, we were preparing for the ‘Pass it On’ ceremony, which we had on June 22nd, just right after the exams. Saturday was a really busy day as the last exam finished at 6 PM, then we had to allo20140622_131412cate the places, sign the certificates and make sure that everything was ready for Sunday! We had five UNNC volunteers helping us and all of them, and obviously us —long term volunteers, had the tasks allocated efficiently, thus it wasn’t too hard!

However, some of us felt unwell on Saturday, we think we ate something that did not agree with us. Fortunately, this ‘Pass it On’ ceremony did not require as much energy as the previous one.

Due to the holidaIMG_4660y, we did not have many children attending, only around 40-50. As usual, Ade opened the ceremony and, one by one, we invited the children who had the best scores to come to “the stage” to collect the certificates and the presents. All of the children that did not get a certificate were given a notebook and a pencil, so nobody was left without a present!


After the official ceremony, we all went to watch a movie! We had a projector and good speakers, therefore we could enjoy good sound and video quality! The movie we chose was ‘Frozen’. Everyone had many sweets, tea and popcorn during the movie! The little ones couldn’t stay up for so long and eventually went to play something instead, while SD4 to SMP students stayed until the end and finished the movie!


It seemed like everyone had a great time!



‘Pass it On’ in Aceh

by Jessica, Co-Director, IHF Banda Aceh

The month of June was spent in preparation for our students’ Final Exams and eventual ‘Pass It On’ celebration. As we got the help from international and local volunteers alike, we were able to get all the grading completed, certificates created, as well as prizes organized to congratulate our students for finishing their year in IHF.

On the day of the ‘Pass It On’ ceremony, several students showed up early, some with cakes, cookies, and biscuits to share with all. Once everyone had shown up, we divided our students into different groups, and assigned them to different “game stations” led by our volunteers. The students got an opportunity to relax and enjoy their time with their peers and simply be kids!


After that, we all went to the backyard and had some delicious food. Bunda, our cook, made some fried rice (nasi goreng) for all available, and all volunteers were busy for the next thirty minutes serving the students and parents.


Finally, it was time for the ceremony. We called the students who earned the highest 3 ranking positions to come and get their certificates and prizes. However, for the students who did not get the highest scores, we still prepared some gifts for them, and we made sure that no child went home empty-handed.


As we took one final picture of all the students and volunteers together, we realized how precious and close our IHF family has been growing. We hope that the students can continue to come to the IHF Aceh Center for the new school year, starting in August, as well.


Remembering in Jakarta

by Christina, Corinne and Tina, Volunteers, IHF Jakarta

We still remember the first day when we arrived at the IHF Jakarta Center, a gorgeous afternoon and a mysterious Center. On the first week, Ade showed us our room and we were glad that we, three girls, were arranged together. Then, 20140606_124604 (1)he showed us around the Center and it was just like a maze to us. He is a nice and warm-hearted guy and that left us a good first impression. In the evening, the two American girls took us to the snack street and recommended several delicious food options to us, and they are really yummy!! Later, we met the two Co-Directors, Timea and Helene, we were very surprised, since they are both so young and pretty!!!

On the next day, we celebrated Ica’s birthday and she received a beautiful rainbow cake and many presents! She is 6 years old now and she was quite happy on her birthday! Her mother Ibu cooks for us every day and she is a brilliant cook! She is so nice that one day I asked if there was any chili left and she made a dish for us immediately!


On another day, we three made a poster for the coming final exams and the ‘Pass it On’ ceremony. We came up with many ideas and discussed them together. Finally, we drew on a large paper and we were extremely happy that everybody liked it!


After a few days, we had an art class and taught the students origami, how to fold a lily flower. It was a bit complicated, but every kid had a masterpiece at the end. Everyone was delighted. Rahma even folded a tulip by herself and she taught me!! In the evening, there was a recruitment activity. Ayu took us around the neighborhood to distribute flyers and put up posters in order to have more children come to our IHF Center to obtain knowledge.


We also met another new friend named Mili. Actually, we all didn’t like cats before, until we met her. She is just so cute, but naughty. She plays with people or finds something to play by herself. It is interesting to observe her. But she always seems hungry and looks for food, and sometimes goes soooo crazy!


The Center is more like a home to us. We love this place so much and really look forward to the next days!