Dance: Finding more than the Rhythm


photo 3 (3)By: Alice, Co-Director Jakarta

I arrived and began as a co-director in August at the IHF center in Jakarta. A couple of weeks after arriving I began teaching weekly dance classes on Saturday afternoons. I’m from Australia and I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Dance along with nearly 10 years of experience in teaching dance and a several years of experience as a professional dancer. I have also studied traditional dance in Indonesia, including the ever popular Saman.

I wanted to run a dance classes at the Jakarta center not only because I love dancing myself, but because after years of teaching it in Australia I have seen first-hand the great impact it can have on the children who learn it.

There are obvious physical benefits from doing photo 2 (3)
regular dance class, including fitness, improved posture, flexibility and strength. There are also more underlying physical benefits, such as improved coordination, proprioception, balance and awareness. It is immensely beneficial to develop these skills at an early age, as they can set children up for a long and healthy life.

There are also many other benefits. Dance classes cultivate creativity and self-expression, as well as confidence and problem solving skills. Remembering routines and learning groups of steps also improve pattern recognition.

photo 1 (3)Aside from all these benefits, kids love jumping around to music and using lots of energy. Teaching these classes for the last couple of months has been an incredible amount of fun! We have learnt moves from many different dance styles and I have seen the kids improve very rapidly; as well as make hilarious mistakes that leaves the whole class laughing together. The enthusiasm of the kids to learn in these classes is unparalleled to any class I have taught in Australia. Never once did I need to ask them to ‘be quite’ or ‘concentrate’ as they followed the whole class with extreme interest.

I feel very lucky to teach these classes and hope that the benefits for these students will be long lasting!

Settling in to Nakuru

By Bruna, Work Study IHF NakuruIMG_3356

My name is Bruna. I’m 26 years old and I’m from Brazil.

I am in my second week at the center in Nakuru , Kenya . It seems the time goes very fast here!

Since I was a kid I always wanted to know Africa and its varied cultures. In the past years I felt an increasing willingness to help and work with children. My country has similar social differences as Kenya, but culturally we are very different and we have many more opportunities in Brazil.

During my first week, the biggest difficulty was to memorize the names as the children have names in their local language, which are very different
from what I am used to hearing. It was also quite hard to talk and play with the IMG_3350children as they are shy. In my second week I know the names of some the children and feel much closer to them. I enjoy talking to them about homework and exams that are coming up. Some of the children are attempting to teach me Kiswahili (it is very hard!).

Every day I learn more: how to feed and look after rabbits, the language and culture of this country and leadership skills watching Julie the director. I am very lucky to be part of this team here in Nakuru.

This week on my day off we visited Lake Naivasha, which is three hours from the center. Julie suggestedIMG_3489 a beautiful campsite to stay overnight called Fishermans Camp.  Rachel and I, another volunteer who is working here in the center, rented bikes and cycled to Hells Gate! It is an incredible place and I felt like we were in the movie The Lion King. On our trip we saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and many more animals.

To finish the week we had a party in the family room at the center! The children were very happy and even taught me a few dance moves! They are incredible dancers!

Changing and Moving on: Medan to Thailand

IMG_1330By Christopher, Work Study

So today’s post is a little bittersweet – it’s my final entry for Medan. But what an incredible final week I’ve had. Knowing that the last weekend would be busy, Medan co-director Lissa and I went to Lake Toba for a day trip on the Sunday. The co-directors, students and locals at the center always ask if you’ve ever been to Lake Toba and highly recommend it. I I decided to go and see it for myself. Apart from deciding to go there, the trip was entirely unplanned which made for an adventure. It was foggy so I wasn’t able to see too much of the lake itself, but the ferry ride, trekking and wandering about the small tourist village Tomok made up for it. I learnt more about local Bataknese culture, history and traditions and saw another part of Indonesia. It was a fantastic way to spend my last day off in Indonesia.

The rest of the week was focused around teaching my final classes. Around class times, I’d been working on a photo and film project that I had suggested to the media team. We had asked students to come along to some organized photo shoots and while at first few seemed interested, on the actual day far more students turned up than we had originally IMG_2861anticipated. The students were really enthusiastic, and such posers! They all made sure they looked cool or pretty enough in the shots. I was glad I took on the project and the kids were so into it. All of them are excited to see how they come out when I send them from Thailand. For the Special Activities class, more children than usual turned up to participate in more photo shoots and making the film. They all followed direction so well and were keen to see how each clip looked. Now I must take on the epic task of editing everything.

After three weeks at the center, everyone started opening up more and were far less reserved. I had gotten to know them a little better, meaning there were more opportunities for socializing. A couple of times, I went on motorbike trips for late night coffee and snacks with Lissa and Jenifer, the local volunteer, in Cemara, where Jenifer lives. I also spent an afternoon watching horror movies with some of the students before Halloween, as the students were very in to horror and local ghost stories or legends. I kept finding myself wishing I had stayed a little longer. I would definitely advise anyone thinking about volunteering with IHF, or any other NGO, to seriously consider staying for a longer period of time. There is so much you can do and help with and it takes the first couple of weeks to get to know the center, everyone there, and discover what you can actually do there that will be the most beneficial to them.

The week ended with good byes. A parent I had befriended invited the co-directors and myself over for dinner one night, to say thank you to us teaching her daughter and to say good bye to me. She cooked us an amazing dinner and we sat eating and chatting, with Lissa acting as our interpreter, as my Bahasa consisted of no more than ten words and the mother, Siska, was motivated IMG_2824to learn English but was still in the early stages. The following night, co-directors, local volunteers and myself were invited to dinner at co-director Aditi’s house. We got to see another part of Medan, meet her husband, and eat some home-made Indian cuisine.

The week culminated in the fundraiser Bake Sale that we had planned and worked on for two weeks. After creating and posting up flyers, we researched possible recipes and ingredients and the local volunteers and directors went out and searched for the required items and best prices. After figuring out costs and how much we needed to make, Saturday was spent with directors, local volunteers and students making all of the cakes morning, we set up a stall and sweets until late. Sunday at Merdeka Walk, made some IMG_2880posters and started walking around advertising the cakes and IHF with informational leaflets, T-shirts and postcards. We made a profit and managed to promote IHF. All in all, it was a fun, successful event, and the perfect end to a perfect final week.
My final night ended with some tearful good byes.​

​However, for me, I’ll still be with IHF for another three weeks. I’m moving on to the Chiang Rai center to see how differently things are done there.

My IHF experience has been amazing so far. I’ve made so many new friends and fantastic memories, but I’ve also been able to connect to a variety of interesting, like-IMG_2866minded people and learn so much about volunteering, NGO’s and management. It’s been a great starting point to gain experience, contacts and skills for future NGO work and I can’t wait to see what I learn and what I can give to the Chiang Rai center next.

Making a Pumpkin Patch

DSC_0017By Amanda, Co-Director

Halloween at IHF Bali was a relaxed, fun day. I can say that it was one of the highlights of my stay here so far. Around 25 children showed up for the Halloween special activity. We played some music and sang some songs together. The children LOVE when we sing with them, regardless of how bad (sometimes downright terrible) our voices are.DSC_0050

Our Halloween activity was to draw pumpkins and make a pumpkin patch by hanging them on the staircase. All the children voted for the best decorated pumpkin. The top three students in DSC_0035the pumpkin decorating contest were supposed to get ice cream as an additional prize on top of their Halloween candy and crayons. But, it was so hot outside, I gave into the puppy eyes and all the children got ice cream. Smiles all around!DSC_0059

Days like Halloween are my favourite. All the children come to the center just to relax and hang out. I love seeing children here when they don’t have class; it shows that they feel comfortable and enjoy being here.

Back to Learn at Chiang Rai

FullSizeRender (3)By Cheryl, Co-Director IHF Chiang Rai

We’ve had a very hectic week here at Chiang Rai. Everyone has come back to the centre for the return to school. Once again the classroom has come alive with chatter and study sessions. It’s so nice to hear everyone’s excitement at seeing each other and for going back to school.

Jiraporn has had a little bit of sad news. The English competition she has been preparing for over the last few months, has been cancelled. Two years ago Jiraporn won the first ever gold for her school in this competition, and had remained a front runner in IMG_2714this year’s competition lineup. Thus the news comes as a disappointment. But every cloud has a silver lining. Her English teacher had just come back from the UK and had bought her a personalised Chelsea Football Club tee-shirt in anticipation for her upcoming victory. It was given to Jiraporn as a IMG_2715concession prize, bringing a smile back to her face – as you can see! And not all is lost. There is an opportunity to compete next year. Our champion just has a little longer to prepare!

This is Aceh and We Rock!

By: Vlad, Co-Director IHF AcehDSC_0577

This week we had a private acoustic concert by three   of our bravest students. They stood in front of a crowd of a few other students and couple of bule (Indonesian word for foreigner and albino). We sang some traditional songs, along with a few modern ones with the help of YouTube. The singing was of course amazing, but the costumes were simply the best in town. It went very well and ended with loads of applause and candy.DSC_0584

In other news, it has been rainy and sunny at the same time for the whole week. This coming rainy season will be something. In my country when it rains, and at the same time there is direct sunlight on you, we say that bear is getting married!

In terms of classes, we are being well prepared and having more fun than ever. Nazma will soon be leaving us, as she’s off to get married. Though we wish her well, we are sad to see her go. David, who is from the USA, will join us here in Aceh. His background in DSC_0570international studies and managerial experience will surely be a great asset to our team!

On a more solemn note, we cannot pass on the serious issue of constant jungle fires in the last months. A third of worlds orangutan population is at risk, on top of the huge amount CO2 being sent into the air. It is hard to believe that this is happening in our own back yard!


Recruitment: Far from Mundane

by Virginia, Co-Director

Sometimes recruitment can seem to be like a boring task.  Not difficult, but boring.

Something happens in Bali all the time, when say you work in “yayasan” (the bahasa word for NGO.) Almost everyone here around knows about IHF and what we do. They ask “caIMG_2777n you come to my village? The people are poor, the kids don’t have a proper education…” We encounter the same situation again and again. “English and computers? For free? Ah, but in Buitan… The cost of transport…” This seems to be one of their main concerns: transportation.

Last week our work study Laura and I met Wayan. He told us about the needs in their community, and his wife invited us to join them on Monday for a ceremony. We could have the opportunity to get to know their village, their community, and also they could get to know us. So there we went, wearing our “selendang”, mandatory to enter in the temple.

We found without problem the house of our host and, with the family, we went to the temple. We enjoyed the most beautiful celebration—one tht I have never seen. The IMG_2774colorful clothes of the woman, the sounds of the music, the flowers everywhere… Everyone smiled to us, curious and shy.

After the ceremony, we came back to the family house and then we explained a little bit more about the work in the center: how having their children learn English and computers will improve their communities, and their own futures. They were very thankful, sending us back home with our backpack full of fresh fruit, and our minds and hearts happy. The people really appreciate th

e work that we do and believe in the way that we can contribute to their community. It was very inspiring for me; these people, who have nothing, give to you everything because they see the importance of our work, the effort we and the children put forth, and the results.

This experience has definitely proved to me recruitment’s worth.

“Hakuna Matata” from Stefania in Nakuru!

By: Stefania, Voluntourist Kenya 

This is the last week for me here in Nakuru Center. It has been one of the best experiences in my life. In these last days, the relationship between the kids and I has DSCN0405blossomed. Sometimes at the beginning of one’s stay, the children can be very shy.  With time, they will become more relaxed, and come to you to spend time together. The kids are so nice: they love playing and taking photos together, and they like asking about my culture and my country. This is one of my favorite things because it enables me to learn also something about Kenyan Culture and the Swahili language.

After dinner, some of the kids usually do their homework, and they really appreciate if sit with them and try to give a hand. They like doing maths DSCN0487exercises together, and asked me many times to teach them some maths.

The weekend is a great time to stay all together. As most of the kids don’t go to school on the weekend, they are around in the center. Last Saturday we prepared chapattis and I really enjoyed it. The kids were so happy to make them and really interested in the preparation. Friday and Saturday nights are usually movie nights. The children are always so excited to watch a movie together!

Last weekend we had some visitors come froma college in Nakuru. They came to assist us, both boys and girls, in picking food for rabbits, DSCN0522cooking and cleaning the rooms. Their principal told me it was a project to teach them that you do not need to be rich  to help other people.  Giving your hand in little and simple ways is already a big help. The time they spent here was such a gift.

There is always so much work to be done here. The project with the rabbits is going very well and I really like going to feed them in the morning. At the moment there are eleven babies. They are growing so fast and eat so much! We have finally we have our first black rabbits!

There also a lot of activities to do out of the center if you have some free time. The director Julie is always ready to suggest nice trips to have around Nakuru. I’ve been to Thomson’s Falls in Nyahururu, where you can walk to the bottom of the waterfall. They walk is quite difficult, but nottoo far. I’ve also been to Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park. It’s the only park in which you can rent a bike to ride around and see the sights.  There are no dangerous animals and it’s an amazing experience riding among zebras, antelopes, warthogs and other animals.

Kenya is a peaceful place. I learned to appreciate every single moment of my day, from waking up early in the morning and taking care of rabbits, to help people here in the center with works such as preparing maize or sewing the bags to keep it in safety. DSCN0470There is never any hurry–you just take the time you need. The people here teach you how to live with the philosophy of “Hakuna Matata”, no problems!

I’m sure I will miss Kenya and all the kids, but I will bring with me back to Italy so many beautiful moments with the children and the people of this center in my heart Their smiles will be impressed forever in my memory. I swear by this: Africa can give you all the happiness you are looking for!

Medan Reflections

By: Christopher, Work Study
IHF doesn’t just work with those who visit the centers, but the local community as well. This is something I had the opportunity to experience first-hand this week. IHF Medan was visited the week before by Tuti, a former local teacher, who had dropped by to see IMG_1240everyone and invited the co-directors and myself for lunch and to meet her students. Tuti is an English teacher herself and teaches children from her home.

We went by motorbike from the center, picking up fresh coconut juice on the way. Tuti had made us two local dishes and drinks for us to try, catching up on IHF Medan and asking me questions about my home and the English language. After lunch, she took us through to a room in her house which she uses as her classroom, where all the students were sat waiting for us. We introduced ourselves and had a short Q and A session. Her students were at the junior and senior level andIMG_1320 very eager to ask their visitors a bunch of questions, many of which were steered towards “Are you married?” or “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?” Their English was very good and it was easy to see they were interested in learning. I then ran an English activity for them in teams.

We ended our visit with a photo session. If you’re a “bule” (foreigner) in Indonesia, you quickly discover that taking pictures will take a while, but the locals are so happy and excited it always makes for a fun time. I found myself taking large group pictures, pictures with groups of friends, pictures with just one person, and repeating the whole process. While everyone was checking and showing off their photos, Tuti allowed us to take some sugar cane and fruits from her garden back to the center. When it came to good byes, all the children came up to take our hands and touch them to their foreheads. IMG_1228This is a gesture the children do when they say good bye to teachers. I have grown very fond if this custom.

Feeling appreciative of the kindness people have shown me in Medan and knowing that I won’t be here in November, I decided to teach the children at the center about Thanksgiving for the Special Activities class. The first half was spent teaching the children about a British festival, Guy Fawkes Night, on November 5th. We made paint fireworks with water colors and straws and then theIMG_1360 children made their own “Guy”. The second half of class was about Thanksgiving. I taught the children about the meaning of this American festival and then made a “Thanking Tree” using branches from outside. The children and staff wrote messages about what they were thankful for on paper leaves and stuck them to the tree. It was nice seeing what everyone was grateful for and to have time to reflect.

From Bali: Cool Games on a Hot Day

By Laura: Work-Study Bali

As every Wednesday we have a special activity at Bali Center.  This Wednesday was incredibly hot. As such, we had to find something that let us enjoy being outside without having bali2ourselves melt.

This led us to a have a water balloon fight. We made two teams and spiced it up a bit. The children were not simply given the balloons. They had to work for it.

Passing a cup full of water with their mouth without using hands to their classmates and then throwing it into a bucket was the first challenge. By the end the children were drenched and the buckets were empty (the children had dumped them on one another.)bali

The next task was to retrieve a coin from the bottom of a water filled bucket–again using only their mouths. They picked up on it fairly quickly, which resulted in similar outcomes between the teams: 13 coins each and all of the students totally wet.

Tbali5he activity of the day was the famous game Twister ™. Though we are adults, sometimes we are worse than the children. We had decided to increase the difficulty through making the Twister ™ mat slick by adding some soap and water. The final result was a lot of laughs and children falling.

After calculating all of the points from the previous steps, w doled out two balloons per person to both teams. A few minutes later, the watery battle began. The most entertaining part about the whole thing was the fact that there were a few balloons which we couldn’t break. They were passed like a hot potato Bali6between the teams! The children had a great time, and so did we.

To finish we picked up every piece of the broken balloons and threw them into the garbage. We are always telling the children about the importance of recycling and preventing pollution in their neighborhood, as doing so keeps Bali beautiful.