More to wait

It all started in a very unfortunate way. I was supposed to be present in the Jakarta center by 4:30 pm; however, due to several problems at the airport, I did not get there until 10:30pm.

Nevertheless, once at the Center, the co-director as well as other volunteers were so welcoming that I almost forgot what I had experienced.  The food cooked by the house mother is awesome since it is not as spicy as rumored.  I have tried some restaurants here in Jakarta, but the food at the center is still what I adore the most.  Besides, I also have my own room which is quite simple, but really tidy and accommodating. The neighbors are very friendly too, they greet us whenever we meet.

However, it is the students that make the greatest impression on me. I used to work for a local organization in my country where I taught orphans aged 5-15 and organize some educational activities on the weekends for them, so handling naughty and noisy kids is what I expected beforehand. Yet, what strikes me is the fact that the children here demonstrate a great attitude towards learning and respect towards the teachers.  They can be noisy sometimes, they may initially resist doing the exercises that they consider difficult, but in the end they do their best to finish their assignments, which was a total surprise and I appreciate it.

Just within the first week, I had a chance to attend several classes, both English and Math and organized an art class for weekly special activity held on Friday in which students learnt how to make a DIY flower for Mother’s day (the first Sunday of May). After hearing about the special activity, kids all appeared very excited and over twenty of them stayed after class and joined me. Sad thing it turned out too difficult for little kids to make a rose as instructed, so I thought they would all give up and just go home. But I was really taken aback by their great efforts to finish the tasks, just as they do on their classes. Some of the students even cried when they could not fold the paper as beautifully as they wished, some of them stayed quite late to decorate their work so that they could present it to their mom who was waiting outside. Some of the girls even stayed to clean the mess that we created.

Half a week have passed by with a lot of surprises and challenges. I am now really excited about what is going to happen in the following weeks. This few days have not only reached my expectations but it has even gone beyond what I imagined this experience would be. As challenging as it might get, this experience will absolutely be very fascinating and rewarding.

Nguyen Minh, from Vietnam

My year with IHF

Written by Annisa, local volunteer, Bali

When I got a job and moved to Buitan last year, I decided to volunteer with an organization near my workplace. When I applied, I thought I would just do it to kill the time after work. But that changed. After almost a year at IHF Bali Centre, this is what I learnt as a local volunteer teaching computer class:

  1. Share whatever you know, even a little bit. I thought I would teach English as this was the only skill I have that I thought I could share. When Alice, the Bali Co-Director at that time, told me that they didn’t have computer teacher, I doubted that I could be one. My IT skills were limited to what I used in college 5 years ago – mostly writing essays in Word. I didn’t even have a personal computer for a few years after graduation. But IHF gave me a chance to teach things that I thought everyone basically could do – very basic computer skill, basic translation, and how to ride scooter as many other volunteers did not know how (this also needs a lesson plan). So you don’t have to be genius or be super talented to contribute. When my senior students, whom at the beginning couldn’t switch on a laptop, could finally make presentation with PowerPoint, I felt like a superstar.20160820_151135
  1. Being grateful for what I have. I grew up in a small city where infrastructure and facilities were pretty much available. But when I came to volunteer here in Bali, I realized that there was a gap of education quality in comparison to where I grew up – a city in Java. Education was of better quality, and there were more options of what we could study at school. This is a reminder for me, for those who read this and I hope also for the government, to make it equal in the cities and villages throughout Indonesia.  If I never volunteered with IHF and experienced this gap myself – the reality that the kids here didn’t have the same privileges – I might not care about this issue so seriously.20160319_135954
  1. The main reason why I kept coming till the end of my stay in Buitan because being an adult all the time is boring but getting loose with the kids is fun. Being an adult means we have to be mature and serious in the things that we do (study, work, and our relationships). I can’t do certain things because it will make me look childish. When I hang out with the kids, it is one of the only the time I can be silly and be me: play chase and run (the kids will help you burn calories) then scream while getting caught, act as a vegetable or goat, transform trash into toys, and discuss imaginary situations rather than thoughtful problems that sometimes be exhausting. I don’t think of reputation or image the way some adults do. I like how children don’t care about winning or losing in a game. You are special if you are teaseable and willing to be part of the game. The children only care if what you do can create a lot of laugh or not.  Something that rarely exist in adult world where the goal of a competition is to win regardless if you enjoy it or not. Kids also never overanalyze things. For example, once we had chips and ice cream. They just eat them together because they want to know if it taste good or not. An adult will analyze first if the taste matched or not, and if they’ve been told that it doesn’t taste good, many of then will believe it without even trying.20161203_145236
  1. In IHF you can meet amazing adults too. I am amazed to see their dedication of time, money, and energy to help kids in a foreign country – kids that cannot even speak their language and have different customs than their own. They said they are looking for experience. Then, I admire them more for choosing the experience which benefit others. It’s inspiring and motivating to hear their purpose to help others. My biggest appreciation are for the co-directors who work very hard to run the centre and take care of us – volunteers and kids. Because it is an international organization, it means people are coming from different part of the world. This sounds cliche, but It always nice to learn about other people’s habits and culture (the good and bad).20160213_144715
  1. Money isn’t the only reward for work. What I get from volunteering in IHF is nothing material. Beside the superstar feeling which I felt sometimes, I received a lot of love here. It is natural, not pretentious. If the kids love you, they really do. When you leave, the love will fade. They love you as you are during the time they spend with you – not as an idea or memory. For me, that is a real kind of love.20161203_130800

I know people are talking about volunteering to make a difference. To be honest, my time in IHF probably made more of a difference in my life than the kids’.

Creating memories with IHF Nakuru

Written by: Ayano Ogura, Voluntourist, Nakuru

img_1877

I was excited and a little bit nervous as my car pulled in through the gates of IHF Nakuru’s centre. I was visiting for a few days so that I can meet Chepanga, a girl whom I have been sponsoring through IHF’s sponsorship program since 2011. Every month IHF sends me an email with two photos -one picture of Chepanga’s hand written letter, and one picture of her holding the letter. Chepanga and I have been writing back and forth in this way as pen pals for five years. She always wrote to me about her studies, her friends, her Pokot village, and we always talked about how I should visit Kenya someday… but I never thought it would become a reality until this year. As I saw Chepanga’s familiar face in the crowd of curious, smiling kids, I instantly felt at ease.
img_1428

There is something about IHF’s children that is so very special. They have a strong bond with each other, and they welcomed me into their home like family. They are friendly, funny, strong, talented, independent and I fell in love with all of them immediately.

Time in Nakuru moved so much more slowly compared to my busy life in Los Angeles where I worry about work deadlines and traffic. I got to wake up to birds chirping every morning. I would go fetch some water from the water tank in a bucket to wash my face, drink hot Kenyan milk tea for breakfast and do some cleaning. Then I would hang out with the kids, read a book, teach some kids how to make friendship bracelets, walk around the green fields under the big clear sky and watch the kids play soccer/football. The kids, especially the boys, are so passionate about football and I loved watching them play every single day in the evenings. They play in any condition, rain or shine, shoes or no shoes, after chores or after exams. They are also so good at singing and dancing too!

img_1410

Of course it’s not all play, and the Co-Director Joyce and work-study volunteer Annie as well as the other staff were doing a great job of keeping the center running as smoothly as possible. I can tell the staff really care about the children and do their best even in the most chaotic and stressful situations.

My impression of life in Kenya seemed to be at the same time simpler and more complicated than the life I grew up knowing. The children here don’t have much in terms of material belongings and they focus on the simple pleasures in life, like eating, studying, playing, and sleeping. However, based on the stories I heard and what I saw during my brief stay, there are many challenges, as with any developing country. Persisting poverty and slums with hungry children begging for money, limited education and some teachers beating students, businessmen constantly ripping off foreigners/volunteers, riots and murders over political differences and girls being forced into arranged marriages at a very young age.

img_1926

I am so thankful to IHF for giving me a glimpse into what life is like in Kenya. I had the same valuable experience when I volunteered at the IHF Jakarta center back in 2008 and 2012, but I always feel like the kids ended up teaching me much more about myself and the world than I was able to teach them. I really believe in IHF’s mission of “Pass It On,” and believe learning about each other and sharing our different experiences will make all of us better global citizens. Even though I miss the kids a lot, I know I’ll keep in touch with many of them in the years to come!

Capturing moments 2016: Medan

By Aditi, Co- Director, Medan.

As we are coming close to the end of this year, we can’t help but reflect on all that has happened through the year at our education center; different workshops, special activities, classes, exams, graduation ceremonies, different festivals celebrated in togetherness, our housemother giving birth to a baby girl and not to forget the numerous smiles and laughter of children and teachers that truly make this year a memorable one.20161219_142452.jpgAs it is believed, the purpose of education is to help the children pick up the skills that they would require in their future lives; we hope that every year spent at Medan center adds value to their lives and helps them to grow into individuals who can help themselves and others around them. The skills and learning that they draw from the regular classes of Math, English, Computers, the exposure they get by being introduced to different topics and discussions held at the center, the opportunity to develop skills and explore their interests by participating in the various workshops that are being held, the values and knowledge that the children gain from by interacting with volunteers with different backgrounds and culture are all an attempt towards fulfilling the same purpose of education.20160609_145718As we complete another year, we also realize the significant role each teacher of our center played in making each day a success; with their assistance in running classes effectively, helping in organizing different events and activities at the center and most importantly working towards making their classes meaningful for the children. Most of these teachers are University students who are currently pursuing their studies in a subject of their choice. They are taking out time from their schedule to teach children at our center -some of them like teaching and some of them want to gain an experience in working but all of them do make a difference in the lives of the children. 20160609_153556It’s the beginning of Christmas celebrations at Medan center this week, we started organizing another set of special activities for the children and would continue organizing different activities throughout this week. Children have been making snowflakes’ and snowman cut outs; colouring and putting them around our center. They have also been busy making posters of their choice to decorate the center. There are colorful butterflies, characters from the animation movies along with the Christmas tree, ready to be put around the center adding more colour to the center and bringing a good close to the year!

Peace Out, Indonesia

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta.

I now depart Indonesia after 308 days of living here.  It’s been exactly 44 weeks of highs and lows, 10 months of ups and downs.  And it’s time to say goodbye.  To be perfectly honest, I’m ready to go but I cannot leave without acknowledging all the good that has been Indonesia for me.

view-of-sumatra-from-samosir1

me-7-eleven-managerA big part of the good was made up of some really, really nice people.  Starting close to home, there was the 7-Eleven crew.  For months, I went there to get my coffee at least 5 mornings every week, and whoever was on duty greeted me with a smile and sometimes a cheery “Pagi!” (good morning).  My food purveyors have also been good to me, like the fruit cart where I bought whatever they were selling.  I know that they overcharged me but it was so little money when I thought about it that I accepted their price, whatever they told me.  The boys who usually man the cart were unfailingly polite and respectful to me, patiently helping me with my words when I had trouble communicating, and laughing with me when I said something stupid (yes, they were laughing at me sometimes but they did it in a nice way).  The mie aceh guy and the ayam bakar guy were also good to me, getting to know my order even before I could speak, and always serving me with a joke (mie aceh guy) and a smile (ayam bakar guy).

siti-her-students

My neighbourhood transportation experts must also be acknowledged.  All the Go-Jek guys who unfailingly shouted, “Hallo, meeeeees!” and waved when I walked by, and the Bluebird taxi crew who greeted me with, “Hallo, Krrrreeeeeestin, how are you today?” whenever they saw me.  They brought me little moments of pleasure, even when it was just a chuckle.

off-to-a-wedding-with-addina

Some of our local volunteers here have stood out to me because of their kindness and generosity of spirit.  Addina, who took me to her friend’s wedding; Nancy, who took me for nights on the town; Siti, who invited me to her home to eat with her family and meet her students and neighbours; and Sofwah, who let me ask her anything and answered it all so wonderfully.

Indonesia has restored my faith in the goodness of humanity, and it has given me profound experiences.  I have seen and done things here that never previously entered my realm of possibility to experience.  I have sat (or hung off a mountain) and watched erupting volcanoes, visited an island within an island, and meandered around ancient temples.  Indonesia has been a gateway to making lifetime memories in other Southeast Asian countries – Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos.

night-out-with-nancyIn Indonesia, I have had to confront the issue of colour and decide on how I should handle it; this was something I never had to deal with before and now I’m more prepared to deal with it in the future.  In Indonesia, I learned that I can adapt even to the point of learning another language, maybe not to expert proficiency but at least enough to get by in daily life.

Indonesia, being here has helped to expand my heart, and for that I say thank you.  I don’t know if I shall pass this way again but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that it was very nice knowing you.

Peace out.

Just Pass It On!

Written by Agata, Co-Director, Bali

The day started extremely busy. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We wanted to make sure that everything would be ready before the kids show up. We set up the tables and cleaned up the floor, checked the certificates and the prizes just to make sure that we would have enough for everyone. Today no kid could leave the center empty-handed. This day was supposed to be a celebration of their hard work, and after this semester they all deserved a prize. We were just in the middle of setting up the balloons when the first little guests showed up. A few kids from SD4 decided to come earlier to check on us. When they saw the balloons it became clear to us that they are not leaving the center anytime soon. But they were a great help, not saving their lungs and hands to help us with inflating the balloons and hanging them around the center.

SD6 kids made their entrance around 11:30 am. As usual, their presence was associated with pranks and trouble, so we have tried to occupy them with a few youtube videos just to buy us enough time to prepare some snacks. As you can read: we were prepared for all the circumstances! By 12:30 pm, the center was already filled with kids, but we were all set and prepared. Even weather (rain, rain, and rain!) strangely worked in our favor gathering everybody inside. At 13:00 sharp, we started the fun part of the day!

2

Firstly, we handed out the prizes. Starting from SD1, we asked each class to step forward. We honored the children who had the best scores on their exams. Then we handed out the small gifts for the rest of the students. After the official part, the games were on! Among others, our students sang, ate crackers without using their hands and pretended to be different kinds of animals. At the same time, some of them were discovering their manual talents making friendship bracelets.

5

Later, we continued our celebrations with snacks and drinks. After all, we all deserved a little treat. Finally, our Juniors students came up with an idea to record our version of the Mannequin Challenge with the kids that were still at the center! It was incredible to watch their commitment to getting it right: we had to take several takes and guess what… The volunteers wanted to quit after the second, but the students didn’t let us rest till we had the best video possible.

That was a day filled with laughter and fun! Our kids were very happy at the end of the day. And the volunteers? Well, they say that a picture says more than a thousand words, so:

bez-tytulu

My trip to Egerton Castle

Written by Annie, Work Study, Nakuru

This past week I visited Egerton castle with Timothy, one of the kids from the center. The castle was built by English Lord, Maurice Egerton for his mistress during the years prior to Kenya’s independence from England. Lord Maurice Egerton was in love with a girl back in England. He proposed to her yet the girl refused, stating that she have to live in a castle. Lord Egerton thus built a castle for her. However the girl has already married someone else by the time the castle was finished.

image1-1

Though with a sad story behind, Egerton castle now is a perfect place for group outing and events. It’s around 30 minutes’ Matatu (10-seat public transportation in Kenya) ride from our center in Nakuru. Once we got there, there was a tour guide who welcomed us and showed us around the 52 rooms in the castle. There were also some interesting exhibitions inside about the history of Kenya and other topics. Our trip took place on Thursday so it was not crowded at all. In fact we were the only four people in the castle. Our guide gave us a very detailed tour. At the end the tour, we also went to see the two lamas imported from South Africa. Outside the castle we’ve met group of children playing football at the field.

image1-2

After the tour, we went to a local restaurant in Nakuru town for lunch since we already missed the lunch time at our center. Timothy was very happy and told me about the last time a volunteer took him out to eat, which was one year ago. While eating out is like a routine for kids in western families, here for them it’s something really special. I was glad to see the happiness on his face and also a little bit sad, realizing how easy it is to make a kid’s day really special here. It made me appreciate what I have.

In The Shadow Of A Volcano

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

I was sick on my second night at Lake Toba and still can’t say exactly what was wrong.  I put it down to that dodgy pork I ate for lunch that afternoon.  It didn’t seem dodgy at the time, but in retrospect, I think that must have been it.  All night, my body ached and I couldn’t get into a comfortable position.  The bed and pillows that were like cloud 9 the night before were now like a torture chamber.  I woke up the next morning feeling exhausted and sick-ish without being able to pinpoint exactly what I was feeling.  Eventually I threw up a little and felt a little better, so I went to breakfast and had some fruit, then I was off.
gunung-sidabung
We were returning to mainland Sumatra so we got back on the car ferry.  However, this time, since I was feeling poorly and dying to sleep, I dozed in the back seat of the car for the 1 hour trip.  Once we got back to Parapet on the mainland, we headed the car in the direction of Berastagi.  We would be driving for most of the day, stopping to see different sights along the way.  At every stop, I felt well enough to get out of the car and snap some photos but I just wasn’t feeling the energy of the previous days.As we drove, the gorgeous views that I had seen on Samosir island continued on Sumatra.  We passed fields and beautiful lake views, and even in the late morning when we stopped at a restaurant for a cup of real ginger tea, the Lake was still with us.While I sipped my really strong ginger tea in the restaurant, I unintentionally eavesdropped on a conversation at a nearby table.  A man who seemed to be a tour guide was telling his clients that the evening before, he was washing his car and twice it got covered in volcanic ash from the continuously erupting Gunung Sinabung, 1 of the 2 volcanoes that looms over Berastagi.  We were heading right towards that and even in my slightly out-of-it state, I was excited to get closer to the volcano.

the-waterfall-and-its-million-steps

But first, we made a quick stop at a king’s palace of some sort.  It was really a small village and a king used to live there with his 12 wives and his security guards.  My driver tried his best to explain it all but I didn’t really get it.  Google Translate helped a little but not much.  I spent about 20 minutes wandering around, including  going up into the wives’ house, which was a large, dark and creepy traditional Batak house.  They all used to live there together and I couldn’t get from anyone if they managed to do it in peace.  Maybe they did.  Whatever, I didn’t really care enough at that point to pursue the line of questioning too much.

Our next stop was a waterfall.  I planned to get a dip under the falls.  But I was feeling kind of weak and not at all prepared to tackle the million steps going down to the waterfall.  So instead I just took a few pictures.We continued our drive and finally made it to Berastagi in the late afternoon.  The entire town was grey and at first I thought how dirty it was but then my driver told me that it was layers of volcanic ash, and I remembered what the man in the restaurant had said about washing his car the night before.

view-of-sumatra-from-samosir

Finally, we got to my hotel, where I spent a good 30 minutes searching my room for the air conditioner remote so I could turn it off because it was so cold.  Eventually, I gave up and called the front desk to ask them how to turn it off and they informed me that there were no AC units in the hotel, it was all fresh mountain air.  I laughed and said thanks, had a steaming hot shower, snuggled under the covers and once again knocked out early.

I hadn’t felt well all day but I still had a pretty good day.  They views had made it all worth getting out of bed that morning.

Exploring Bali as a voluntourist

Written by: Eva, Voluntourist, Bali

My name is Eva, I’m a 53 years old teacher from Switzerland and I currently work at IHF Bali for four weeks as a voluntourist. When I arrived at the center, I was surprised that it’s located between a small Hindu and a small Muslim village. So every day I smell the smoke of the temple fire donations, and I hear the muezzin singing. I like that.

IMG_0149.jpeg

After my first shock of my unfriendly bath and sleeping room, I was happy, that at least the kids have very nice classrooms with a nice view of the fields and the sea. And I’m also happy with our cook Sari – she is cooking very traditional food, mostly vegetarian, and although I like to eat meat and fish, every day I’m looking forward to her menu.

The teachers at the center work in similar ways as the teachers in Europe, supported by computers and wifi. That’s great – both are a part of the daily kid’s world. I’m teaching history and German in a Swiss High School, and I was a little bit nervous about my first team-teaching lesson. But it worked very well.

As a voluntourist, I love to explore Bali. I rented a motorbike, and the first trip I did was to Pura Besakih, the Indonesian „mother temple”. Driving through the landscape was so amazing and fantastic!

IMG_0150.jpeg

During my second trip, I spent exited hours in Bali Aga Village in Tenganan, only ten minutes from IHF Bali Center. It’s a kind of museum village, where guests have to pay a donation for entrance. The village looks very traditional, and I was watching how the inhabitants prepare a wedding for the next day. The women rasp coconuts and make coconut soup; the men cut herbs and chili and slaughter pigs. I liked to watch it, even it was sometimes hard.

img_1224

On Saturday we had a special activity: Yoga! Me and the kids liked it a lot. On Sunday I was in Ubud, for rice terraces, culture, and River Rafting.

Beheadings, Cannibals & Bad Pork…Oh, My!

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

I slept for 12 solid hours on my first night at Lake Toba.  Clearly, I needed the rest, having slept for only 5 interrupted hours since I had gotten up 36 hours before.  I would spend that day seeing some of Samosir and I was ready for it.  I spent a leisurely couple of hours lingering over breakfast with the lake just down below – with those views, who can blame me?

traditional-batak-village

My first stop for the day was Huta Siallangan, a traditional Batak village.  My English-speaking tour guide three was hilarious and informative and actually 1 of the best tour guides I’ve ever had.  She showed me what the inside of traditional Batak houses look like, and told me that they kept their animals under the house.  Then she explained all about the stone seats of judgement and the village’s cannibalistic history.  Yeah, you heard me right.  Cannibals.  But she said not to worry, they had already eaten breakfast so I was good.  Ha!  See what I mean?  That girl was pure gold.

Apparently, the criminal justice philosophy back in the village’s distant past was that there were crimes that you could make recompense for and those that you could not.  The first category of crime included things like thievery, in which case punishment might be slavery to the village’s king for a pre-determined period, or paying back what was stolen by some multiple, like pay back 4 pigs if you stole 1.  The second category of crime, the unrecompensable type, included things like murder, rape and adultery.  Those were things the apparently you couldn’t make up for and the automatic punishment was death.  Apparently, the stone seats of judgement weren’t about deciding on the guilt or innocence of an accused.  No, if the alleged criminal made it as far as the judgement seat, their guilt was already taken as a fact.  The judgement seats were about sentencing.

stone-seat-of-judgement

So first the prisoner would spend some time in “jail”, which was under the front of the king’s house because, you got it, they were regarded as animals and under the house was where the animals were kept.  While he was shackled under the house, all villagers were free to walk by and spit on him, throw rotten fruit at him, hurt insults at him – basically treat him like crap.

Once the sentencing was done, it was time to move on to the execution phase of the proceedings, if death was the punishment.  The execution didn’t take place on the same day because the prisoner was granted a last meal, prepared by the villagers.  On execution day, everybody congregated in the execution area and the food was put on a stone table.  The prisoner, with his hands tied behind him, would be made to eat like, yup, an animal.  After he was done eating his last meal, he would be laid out face-up on a stone slab and tortured.  The executioner would use a knife to make shallow slices all over the prisoner’s torso and then pour lime juice into the cuts.  The aim was to torture the prisoner until he passed out so that he would be unconscious for the beheading.  They would therefore torture him for as long as it took for that to happen.  Once he was passed out, the executioner would chop his head off, and the head would then be posted on a stake at the entrance to the village, to warn enemies and its own villagers of what happened to criminals in Huta Siallagan.

torture-execution-stone

After the beheading, the prisoner’s torso would be cut open and his heart and liver would be pickled and eaten immediately (also, raw) by the king and villagers because they felt that the power of a dead person would be passed to them through these organs.  So ate the person’s organs for a reason, not for fun.  After all this, the body would be thrown into Lake Toba and no-one from that village would fish from the lake for 7 days.  Then everything was back to business as usual.

Uh huh.  Moving on.

We said goodbye to the village and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon driving around Samosir, seeing gorgeous view after gorgeous view.  Seriously, we couldn’t catch a bad view, no matter where we went.  We went up hill after hill, past fields and waterfalls.  It was just gorgeousness everywhere.  I can honestly say that the Lake Toba region is the most beautiful place I’ve been to in Indonesia.

view-of-the-lake-from-my-hotel-2

We stopped for a late lunch in Tomok, where I had some soup, pork and rice.  This would come back to haunt me, but more on that next time.  After lunch, I wandered up to another little village of traditional Batak houses that was nowhere near as impressive as Siallagan had been.  Late afternoon, I went back to my hotel and snuggled down into my comfy bed with an ebook and Whatsapp while the rain poured outside.  I was a snug as a bug in a rug.  What a lovely way to end a beautiful day.