It looks like Christmas morning in Chiang Rai!

by Giulia M., Work-Study, IHF Chiang Rai

It seems like many Tuesdays here in the Chiang Rai Center, all the kids are at school and the volunteers do the usual duties. Then, the co-Director asks us to get on a truck and go to the city Center to pick up some gifts that a sponsor has brought for the Center and for the children.

After a few minutes, we arrive in the city center and go to the hotel where we find the sponsor and the gifts that he brought. And after all the hard work of taking and loading the truck with all of the things, and a sincere thank you to the sponsor, we return to the Center, where we start to check and organize all of the gifts.

It looks like Christmas morning! There are a lot of useful things for the Center and for the children, and it’s impossible to write here a list of all the things that we received!

Among the most beautiful gifts, there is a wonderful bicycle, that everyone can use, a blender that we could use to prepare smoothies, a big television and a coffee machine for those volunteers who need an energy drink before work in the morning.

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When the children come back from school, you can imagine their smiling faces when they see all the presents. They help the volunteers organize all of the things, and this becomes a way to start a conversation with the children, to know each other better and to build relationships between people who speak different languages, who live in different countries and have different cultures.

Thank you very much for these gifts, not only for the Center, that received useful things, but also for the smiles and the relationships that developed between children and volunteers.

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Appreciating Jakarta

by Chengsheng, L., Voluntourist, IHF Jakarta

This week is my first week in Jakarta. Everyone here is very friendly and easygoing. I am very happy I got this chance to join this big family. I was assigned to teach SD1 to SD4 classes, which are Primary classes. At first, I just played the role of an assistant in the class due to the lack of experience at being a teacher. SD1 class surprised me so much, because they were behaving in a very naughty manner! They couldn’t even sit still for ten seconds. They run, they shout, and they play. I keep saying “sit down”, sometimes “duduk” which means “sit down” in Indonesian to the whole class and I nearly lost my voice. Fortunately, although they are very naughty, they go back to their seats when I ask them to.

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Friday night was an unforgettable night. We went to a karaoke to celebrate Ayu’s birthday. We sang Indonesian songs, Mandarin songs, English songs, and Indian songs.

Said by the IHF founder: “IHF Jakarta provides a loving and safe environment for both the children and volunteers alike and you cannot help but fall in love with the country, the food, the culture, and of course the people”. I have started to fall in love with this city and I appreciate everything I have experienced here.

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A future great teacher in Medan

by Xintong Z., Voluntourist, IHF Medan

This is my first time doing teaching work, which I think is a great experience for me because I study English and maybe someday a will be a great teacher! The students in the Center are cute and smart. I was quite surprised that they are pretty good at speaking English, while Chinese students can only write in English. I love them so much.

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The trip to Lake Toba w2 (2)as perfect. I went there on the weekend with the volunteers I work together with. It is really beautiful, the sky was blue and the weather was good. We stayed in a homestay hotel. The house keeper took us around Lake Toba for the whole day. He is a really nice person. His wife is a German woman who traveled there 33 years ago and got married to him.

And, I felt really happy on the day of the final match of the World Cup. It was cool and I love to share happiness together with others, though Argentina lost. Finally, this is a great experience for me as a volunteer in Medan. I think I can be a teacher someday in future.

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Thanks to my nice director Rafa and Thank you IHF!

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Getting used to Aceh

by Daysi & Dawen, Voluntourists, IHF Aceh

This is the second week we have been staying here, and we have started to get used to Banda Aceh, to the IHF Center, and to the volunteers here including both local and international. I am feeling much better when I see the geckoes now than when I first saw them and could only sleep well after reciting a passage from the holy bible. In addition, the food, which has Indonesian taste with a special sauce, is extremely delicious. Although, there were not many teaching classes during this week, I got the chance to spend time more closely with the children and it is really a lot of fun playing with children who are so smart and, thus, learn things very fast. Besides our own class, we also attended the other volunteers’ classes such as Italian class, and getting to know another language that we haven’t been in touch with before is amazing.

This week, we had a fundraising activity, which was about selling pudding. We had lots of fun in this fundraising activity. I always believe that people who like to volunteer are nice, and so they are; we spent the rest of the time together. Sometimes, we go out to have dinner or drink together, but other times we just hang out in the Center and chill. No matter what we do, the atmosphere is perfect because everybody likes to share and joke around.

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On the 27th we went to the center of Banda Aceh. There was a big festival,so many people got together there and celebrate it. We had a lot of fun and the fireworks after the parade were really amazing. The life here became more and more comfortable and I started to feel like I am living in a big family .Everything starts to become a part of my life. I am sure that the experience here would be one of the best memories of my life.

Bali’s mounting garbage problem

by Mika, Voluntourist, IHF Bali

This week, we got familiar with Bali’s environment, and we really enjoyed the work in here. But one serious problem that came into notice was the mounting garbage scattering everywhere, especially near the beach areas.

The volunteers and some of the locals try to recycle plastic, paper and aluminum, but a great deal ends up scattered everywhere, taken out to the sea and blown back to the beach.  You can imagine the scene, when you wish to enjoy your holiday in this fancy island, the first view that comes to your eyes is the polluted beach and sea.

This Saturday afternoon, with some of the children that attend the IHF classes, we went to the beach in front of our house, picked lots of plastic garbage and after that, this beach seems better than before.

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So, to conclude, we are real looking forward for more people to join us that can help with more effectively methods to make Bali clean.

An enlightening first week in Jakarta

by Sarika N. and Jessenia M., Voluntourists, IHF Jakarta

This was it.  The reason why we took our journey to this new country.  To teach and educate young minds and for them to teach us about the culture and their ways of learning. Monday at 10 am is when we, Jessenia and Sarika, got to the Jakarta IHF Center.  We traveled from New York for 26 hours! Our biggest obstacle to overcome upon our arrival was not to look like we were jet lagged.

Tuesday proved to be a little better. We were anxiously waiting for a chance to start teaching since we have plenty of experience teaching English back in New York as E.S.L. teachers/classroom teachers. We needed to observe the classes first to get a hang of how things were run. Unfortunately, since it was Ramadan, not a lot of students came to the classes due to the fasting. We met one student who showed up. The co-Director of the Center was her teacher for the past few months and she was saying that she recently got accepted to an International university in Indonesia.  She stated “I don’t understand how I got accepted, I am not smart or rich”. It was really sad to hear a young teenager say that.  I had to inform her that she is rich in the heart and smart in the head.  If many of the students of Indonesia have that set mentality, they will not be successful.  The co-Director was teaching her about greenhouse gases.  They were reading an article from National Geographic.  It had a lot of hard vocabulary, which the Director went over and explained to the student.  We were impressed by the student’s willingness to learn. Finally, it was show time for us. We got the chance to teach our first English class on Wednesday. Our lesson plan was about simple present and present continuous. Using the information that Sarika learned from her linguistics class and the professional teaching experience Jessenia had, we became a great team with a pretty interactive lesson.

On Thursday, we took a trip to a nearby mall called Kasablanka.  It is a middle class mall (apparently). I felt like I walked into Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island.  There was Guess, Cache, Billabong and all these companies we both knew.  The day before, we explored Mall Ambassador. The differences were clearly visible. The one thing we have noticed here is when dealing with American chains, the prices usually stay the same.  Sarika got a caramel latte from Dunkin’ Donuts the other day, it was still about 3-4 dollars.  Same thing with the places out here. We both agreed that we liked the first mall better, “Mall Ambassador”, because to us, it reminded us of Broadway Mall but 10 times bigger and better.  They had a lot more Indonesian style clothing and it was a lot cheaper. But the food at Kasablanka was very delicious —we had Indonesian “soul food”.

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The best bonding time we had as volunteers (consisting of myself, Jessenia, Yanyi, and Lu) was exploring Bogor with Siti! She is Indonesian and had lived there with her husband a while ago for several years. Having her take time from her busy life was much appreciated. Jess and I especially felt grateful because she was fasting; so we knew that this trip would be exhausting for her. We took a train to the area and found our way to the Bogor Botanical Garden.

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Walking around the beautiful, endless, green land, we found ourselves exchanging giggles, stories, and pictures. Siti taught us some key Indonesian phrases and helped us bargain at the gift shops. We proceeded to a nearby mall for some more shopping! Jess and I were eager to get more souvenirs for home.

All in all, we have been enjoying our stay here. One thing I like about the Center so far is that they really treat you like family.  They are very welcoming; even to the Center cat, yes the Center has a cute little cat.  They are so caring and make sure everyone is comfortable. We appreciate them helping us get around Jakarta. There is still much more to explore!

A cultural experience in Aceh

by Leonardo D. and Sole B., Work study and Voluntourist, IHF Aceh

When we stepped out of the Aceh airport, the first sound that we heard was the Adhan, the Islamic call for prayer that comes from the mosques. And we felt that song as a welcome by Banda Aceh, and as the first step inside a completely different culture and a new experience.

When we managed to arrive at the Center, warmly welcomed by the two co-Directors Jessica and Timea, we were really excited and willing to begin our experience with IHF.

As days passed, things got better and better, we began to know the local volunteers and the kids, both really nice and curious about Italy and our culture; as we were about theirs.

The world knows Aceh only for the tsunami struggle of 2004 and the separatist civil war, but we immediately realized that the real face of Aceh is the one of a working and vibrant town trying to recover from the Tsunami shock, full of nice and welcoming people, all really curious and willing to know more about different cultures.

Knowing better the local volunteers and hanging out with them made us appreciate deeper the aspects of Indonesian and Acehnese culture, favored also by the fact that this is the month of Ramadan, in which the Islamic culture gets more vibrant. We had the unique opportunity of breaking fast in the house of a local volunteer and we appreciated even more the local food and traditions.

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We have also been teaching a storytelling class to the older students with a Chinese work-study volunteer, and after having told an Italian and a Chinese story in English, we made them tell us Indonesian stories and we reflected on the morale of the stories; they seemed so happy to know new stories and to share theirs!

Also, Italian classes are held, and local volunteers and some of the students are attending, and everybody seems to enjoy the classes a lot, which turns out to be a fun at every lesson.

On Saturday, we had Buka Bersama with the students, it has been a great occasion to get to know the students better and to play with them; and on Sunday, we had a great farewell party for Jessica, who is sadly leaving on Tuesday. We all made traditional dishes from our countries and we broke fast all together with the local volunteer in a really special atmosphere. It has been a great weekend.

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IHF is doing a lot here to help the students and the Acehnese community; we will go back home with a new point of view thanks to this incredible experience. If someday you read that IHF is an inspiring story by one of the many IHF volunteers, believe it!

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A peek into the kids’ lives in Kenya

by Nora S., Medical Intern, IHF Nakuru

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to East Pokot for our bi-annual famine feed. East Pokot is an extremely marginalized tribe where most of our kids are from.  I went with Steve, another Director, and a few of the kids from our Center.  It was an amazing experience.  We got to see where these kids are coming from.  In fact, I got to meet several of our kids’ relatives.  We arrived early in the morning and we went to four villages to hand out cabbage and maize flour for them to make ugali, the most common dish here.

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The people of East Pokot suffer from many preventable diseases, but suffer because they do not have access to medical care or most importantly, clean water.  Some villages are more than 30 km from the nearest water source, and it’s not even safe to drink.

It was an extremely humbling experience to be involved in.  Everyone was so grateful and I was just thankful to have a chance to see the life of the children I’ve been so intimately working with for two months.

DSCF1001It was amazing that even though these people were suffering as they were, they were able to smile and laugh, and ask about their kids.  I hope that we were able to provide some comfort, relief, and happiness to them. A week later, I’m still completely blown away and honored. It is an experience I will not soon forget.

A simple Nakuru reality

by Mary S.W., Work-Study, IHF Nakuru

One valuable piece of reality that one will learn when immersing oneself into the IHF family for an extended period of time, is the simplicity and strength of those who live life well. For instance, a handful of the children who are here thriving at the Nakuru Center lived through the post-election violence of 2007, yet, their joy and energy everyday show a life full of love and radiance rather than fear and hurt. Likewise, when reflecting upon the lives they lead, receiving an education and having food available three times a day prove to be the staples to a successful journey –and the rest is, well, fluff. For instance, I recently traveled with one of the older boys from the Center to visit his grandmother, his only surviving and known blood relative still standing. It was a bit of a trip, with a couple of matatu rides (the Kenyan bus) followed by a 30+ minute piki ride (the Kenya motorcycle that serves as a taxi service). Thus, one might say that we went off into the middle of nowhere. Yet, upon my arrival, I felt a sense of majestic simplicity. The rain is abundant for tNueva imagen (13)he village, thus the crops are very green and lush, the kids are happy in community, and the caretakers seamlessly prepare the best food I have had yet in Kenya. A part of me looked at David and thought, why don’t you stay here? Though very simple, there is an element of paradise to his homeland, alive with family and food –about everything you need to lead happy, full days. Yet, then the other side of me kicks in that recognizes what I see of myself in David, and that is ambition. David yearns to do something great in this life –to earn a living, to see the world, and to give back–, to have more to offer thNueva imagen (14)an what he lives off of everyday –and this is also something that cannot be taken for granted. At the end of the day, bitter-sweetly, David and I, indeed, returned to Nakuru, because we have a mission here, an opportunity to educate ourselves (though by different means) and a hope to make things better for ourselves and others. Thus, at the end of the day, one realizes, it is the family (blood related and non-blood related), available food, and the appreciated opportunities one seizes that make all of the difference in the world, and there is nothing mundane about it. Regardless of what has happened in the past, these roots are still what drive these kids everyday. It is a simple strength.

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Meeting the children in Bali

by Cici, Voluntourist, IHF Bali

This is the first week for us as volunteers in the IHF Bali Center. The beautiful scenery with the lovely kids there make everything enjoyable. Some of the little kids here are naughty, they will talk, and laugh loudly in class. At first we regard it as a problem, however, soon we realized that the kids are not really naughty but they want to attract our attention.

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After class, they come to take photos with us, and because we are new teachers here, they are curious about our names and nationality. Our main job is teaching English and computer, and we are surprised to find that their English is much better than what we expected. We are looking forward to meeting the kids next week.

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