School Meeting Day in Kenya

by Ana Cecilia, Work-Study, IHF Kenya
Last week was the first time I assisted to a parent-teacher meeting. I am sure that the school I went is one of the best schools that our children attend to. Actually, we only have one boy that goes to this school, and he is quite privileged.

Because Krop was one of the top students when he finished primary school, he got the opportunity of choosing which secondary school he wanted to go to.

image3The meeting was not as many of my colleagues usually say it was: Three hours of Kiswahili, many prayers, and nothing productive. This time, the teacher told the small group of parents that he was going to try to make it short and effective, and that if everyone was okay with it, he would do it in English so “our sister” can understand.
Two mothers did not like the idea of doing the meeting in English so the teacher did translation of pretty much all the information.
While sitting there surrounded by the parents of the other classmates and with the presence of the kids, I realized how important it is for our children to have someone that supports and gives them the necessary attention, and at the same time, I realized how difficult this is.
image1Most of the parents have maximum 6 or 7 children to take care of, but at the center we have more than 65! This means that we should be keeping track of 65 schedules, exams dates, grades, school fees, etc. and at some point it becomes very difficult. Volunteers change very often, directors leave after one year, teachers don’t understand why every time there is a meeting it is someone differ there, but for us, it is the only way to do it, and the best we can.

The most important things told at the meeting were related to advising and guiding children through the path of discipline in their education. They are encouraged to work hard and study as much as possible, as well as staying away from bad company that could influence them to behave in the wrong way.

I have to say that I agreed to most of the things being said and that I found just little contradictions in the speech of the teacher. They have a very strong way of talking telling the children things such as: “if you disobey your father, you are paving your own way to your grave”. No wonder why sometimes they consider that beating the children is a good idea.

I also had an opportunity to talk to the school principal. He received me very kindly in his office and we ended up discussing my first impressions and his opinions about the educational system in Kenya.

One of the things from the principal’s office that called my attention was a paper that he had on the board with the current enrollment of secondary school, and it’s very evident how the boys outnumber the girls by a big difference. For example, in Form 1, there are 124 boys and 76 girls. I asked him the reason for this and he said that women are usually required to stay at home and help the mother with the house chores; another reason is that parents prefer girls to go only to Girls Schools.

In general, I thought it was an interesting experience to get to know the school of one of our boys, and now I am curious to meet other schools.

Before leaving the school I found a sign in one of the walls that said: “Polite notice: there is no room for the lazy”.

My last days at IHF Bali :(

by Kerri, Work-Study, IHF Bali

This is the beginning of week 4 for me. It’s crazy because it feels like I just got here, yet at the same time it is the start of my last week. I completely understand why and how volunteers can stay here for such long periods of time. It really takes the first month to get into the groove of things and feel like you have a good grasp on how everything works.

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Even though it may have been short, I am so grateful for my experience here. It has been eye opening, challenging, rewarding and above anything else, humbling. The kids are so special and to be part of potentially giving them future opportunities that they may not have had otherwise is extremely fulfilling.
It has also been a pleasure working with the other volunteers. I’ve been lucky that the group in Bali are such a wonderful bunch to get to know. It’s amazing how people from such different worlds can immediately bond over a common cause.
Last, but not least, I am going to take away a little piece of the Balinese culture with me. It’s been wonderful living within the community and getting to know some of the locals from the neighborhood. They are by far one of the warmest, friendliest groups of people whom I’ve ever met.
I don’t know if I’ll be ready to leave at the end of the week, but I know for sure that I will always be grateful for the time I spent here, as short as it may have been.

Our Extended Family in Chiang Rai!

by Eva L., Co-Director, IHF Chiang Rai

This week, the experience in Chiang Center focuses on a fun and furry part of our family members … cats!

Bobo is the most sympathetic member of our family cats…he likes sleep between the shoes and T- shirts as in places you never expect! He’s very kind and polite, every day say good morning to everyone caressing our legs.. It’s very nice wake up in this way, you know!

cats chiang rai

….and a great new addition to the family…  our little cats!

They are running around our house all the time, playing  with the frogs  – poor frogs! – and hunting insects like mosquitoes, ants and lizards..  They are very small so they need to sleep a lot too during the day as you can see in this photo.

After lunch or dinner at weekend, the children watch tv and cuddle with the cats – it’s a great sight to see!

A Happy Bridge…

By Gregor O., Co-Director, IHF Bali

About one week ago, IHF participated in another fruitful project with Jembatan Senang, a foundation in nearby Candidasa Samuh that focuses on the therapy and rehabilitation of autistic children.IMG_4678

We became involved with them about 6 months ago, and they have become friends, helping each other out in tips on education , areas we can help each other out in, etc. Some of our attending IHF children have siblings who are mentally handicapped, and the interaction is good for both IHF and Jembatan Senang.


Four Jembatan Senang students joined three of our students and one volunteer, Jing,  in making crafts – this time , bracelets, necklaces and keychains.

It was a good time for all, and we hope the interaction continues, because it helps to normalize and remove some stigma from autism and mental handicaps in little steps, something that is very much needed in Bali, and Indonesia, in general.


Local Fundraising Events: A Couple of Recent Highlights

by Johanna N. Ottolinger,  Director , FR&M

At IHF, we invite our volunteers to take a hands-on role in informing and engaging their local communities to raise awareness for and about IHF. This includes increasing awareness through networking and events, engaging local advertisers and establishing a sustainable presence with strategic partners willing to promote and support IHF’s work.

Two recent examples highlighted here include a football event in Jakarta and a Bingo Night in Bali. These are just samples of how instrumental each and every volunteer can be in enabling IHF’s mission.

IHF Jakarta Futsal (Football) Cup: The IHF Jakarta Futsal cup was organized by Mindaugas, one of Jakarta’s Co-Directors. Apart from being an avid footballer himself, he had formerly organized various football-related events with the IHF children. Proceeds were generated through teams paying registration fees and awareness was disseminated via online channels and local networks.  The event was a success, as proceeds  exceeded the costs and the event generated a community -building and overall positive reception. Most markedly, the Futsal Cup brought to light IHF, its mission and its programs working in  the marginalized communities we do. Futsal


Bingo NightBali Bingo Night: The Bali Bingo Night was organized by Esther, Jing and Kerri, all Wor
k -Study volunteers and Samir, a one-month voluntourist. Flyers and word-of-mouth across local channels were employed to generate the audience who convened on Friday Night at New Queen’s in Candidasa.
Samir smartly hosted the event, with jokes and anecdotes to entertain the Bingo-enthused crowd. Also here, while funds were generated towards supporting IHF’s programs and intiatives, the lasting impact and awareness was most significant.

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A big thank you to all participating volunteers and centers.

To all incoming, past and present volunteers: we look forward to YOUR  ideas! Once you have arrived at your respective centers, please contact with your ideas so we can help get them realized!



A Farewell from Bali!

by Johanna & Gregor Ottolinger, Co- Directors, IHF Bali

After one year and too many memories to count, it is time for us, our 3-year-old son Damian, and our faithful pup Thor to bid farewell to a place we called and considered home. What made it so was not so much the house nor the wild surroundings of juicy rice fields, lush banana trees, arid volcanoes, and fragrant frangipanis (although that certainly helped!), but rather, the people.


By that, we mean of course first and fore-most the attending children of IHF Buitan, who have – and will always have – a special place in our hearts. We also were lucky to have grown close with  the Buitan communities, both Muslim and Hindu, attending a number of family and community events that have granted us a new appreciation of ceremony and devoutness as an intrinsic and elemental part of everyday life.  We were likewise grateful  to have welcomed a number of exceptional Bali volunteers and sponsors, who brought massive joy to their sponsor children and classes, and whose visits are still mentioned weeks and months afterwards. Many of you we look forward to see again in our homes of Europe and  New York soon.


We held a farewell party for the children and were touched by their sincere gestures of affection and gratitude, demonstrated in part by letters, but also by profusely smearing the cake frosting on our faces! Big mess, great fun!


We’d like to take this opportunity to extend a big thank you to IHF, its volunteers, staff and sponsors, the local community of Buitan and the greater Manggis – Bug Bug area, and a special thanks to the amazing children at IHF for making our experience so rich and unforgettable.   Thank you!

It’s the little things you start to appreciate

by Elisabeth, Work-Study, IHF Nakuru

Coming here I had to slow down – everything was working so much slower than I was used to. Now I can hardly believe that my journey is supposed to be over in already a week! I feel like I should look for the two months, where they had gone, because it feels more like one month at most, that I have been here.


Never the less, looking back I am sure that I have learned very much. It has become normal to me, to shower with a bucket, not having running water, but actually having to shovel it on yourself with a cup, or washing clothes by hand, being amazed how fast they dry because it is so warm. But I have to admit that whenever I can actually flush the toilet or wash my hands under running water I get excited about it and miss it when I don’t have it.

Back home I will miss the people here a lot. Kenyans to me are amazing people: very open and friendly, but for sure sometimes they can be overwhelming, since everybody wants your attention and that you greet them back. I will miss hopping on a motorbike – or PickyPicky like they call it here – to go to town, or small busses – Matatus – just stopping wherever they can to get more people on – and trust me, a Matatu is never full in Kenya!


Most of all the things that have become everyday life to me now, I will miss the hugs, smiling faces, and questions of the children here. I enjoyed being around children all the time. For sure it has not always been easy, but even the harder times have something positive: they taught me how to deal with it and toughen up. I had to learn to live without running water every day, not working power sometimes for a full day, toilets that don’t flush, bucket showers, cooking over a fire every meal, muddy streets when it rains, etc. and I am really grateful I had this chance, because it helps me now, actually appreciate it, to have running water, or a flushing toilet, for example – little things!


I will miss cooking with the children on Saturdays or Sundays, waking up at 5:45am to give a fixed school uniform to one of the children before school, arguing with them whether or not they may use my phone to play games, or if they could make bracelets and necklaces, watching them play soccer or practicing rugby passes with them,… the list is long.

Deep inside I hope the children learned as much from me as I have learned from them.


A relaxing Yoga Class that turned into a cake war

by Esther M., Co-Director, IHF Bali

Last week we had a lot of events going on at the Bali Center. We have a visit from Marta, a Spanish Yoga teacher who was traveling around Bali and was really interested in what the IHF was doing here. After seeing the classes and the center she was amazed so we proposed that she should do a Yoga Masterclass with the kids as many of them are not very familiar with this wonderful practice.

P1050468 (640x527)So we had a groupal Yoga Class with the kids which was everything but relaxing.The kids enjoyed it so much and after we played a game to build words with their own bodies.

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After the exercise we recovered ourselves with a bunch of
snacks, some music and games, the kids loved it! As the former directors Hanna and Greg were going back to Germany we had also a Goodbye Cake for all the kids. What better way to finish the day than with a cake war and everybody’s dirty faces? Even with the sadness of them leaving it was a really fun day!

Indian Festival of Light at IHF Medan

by Lissa, Co-Director, IHF Medan

Last week was a celebration of Diwali (Deepavali) on the Indian neighborhood in Medan. Diwali is similar to New Year for Indian culture. They also mention it as the “Festival of light”. Our Co-Director Aditi invited all the volunteers and me to her house to celebrate Diwali with her family as all of us were very interested to approach ourselves to this part of the Indian culture as we have seen it only in Hindi movies (Bollywood). IMG-20141023-03212

At first when we arrived to her house, we saw Indian decorations everywhere. There were colourful flowers all around the house. We tasted the Indian cuisine which is definitely way different to the Indonesian food. Even Aditi and her husband, Ritesh taught us how to eat the food properly!IMG-20141023-03220

After we have eaten lots of food, The Festival of Lights started. We ignited the candles inside the house and in front of every door in Aditi’s house, then we went outside to make the night more colourful with some fireworks. It was so much fun and a really unforgettable night. We were glad to have enjoyed  a Diwali celebration without even going to India. :)


Paper Planes for the Muslim New Year!

by Timea, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

On Saturday most people in Aceh, including DSC00812almost all our students, were celebrating “Satu Muharram”, the Muslim new year. They wanted to spend this day with their familes relaxing or going to the beach, since the children did not have to go to school. Thus, only 4 students came to the center. We were very happy to have them, though.

We have decided that instead of the regular classes we will do something fun with them. First, we made paper pl  anes and everybody had to decorate their own nicely. After this we had a competition, the children had to aim with their planes at a dart board. They each had five turns. At DSC00792each turn, they could collect or lose points, depending on where they hit the target. It was really fun and they could even practice some Math by adding up their points from round to round.

After this we were making paper ships and decorated them with flags the children drew. Once everyone was done with the ship and the flag, we went to the bathroom and released them on water – we put them in the bathtub and sank them all by throwing marbles at them. This was a lot of fun, everybody enjoyed sinking the ships. Of course, we immediately realised that the ships were completely ruined so we had to make new ones, so the children could take them home.