First Week, Fresh Experiences

By:  Marta, Voluntourist Bali

My first week…was amazing.

After flying for almost 20 hours from Barcelona, Spain (my lovely home city), I landed in Bali. My first thought was something like “OMG it is really hot here”.  Pak Agus from from the center (and the most helpful man on the island), was already waiting for my arrival at the airport.

The last few years of my life, I have been combining my studies with work, to get job experience and improve my skills.  After living for nearly two years in The Netherlands, I decided to do something completely different:  to be a voluntourist.  Combining a month vacation with 6cdc1b68-1aee-4892-bf5b-e349aca83ff7volunteering at an IHF center has been the best decision ever.

How does it work? I am staying in the center, living with the other volunteers and helping out during the classes.  At the same time, I have enough free time to discover the island.  With my rented motorbike, I am free to move around the surroundings.  One of the best views I found was by coincidence, on a path to ‘who knows where’.  See the picture:  enjoy it!

The locals are very nice and kind people, always curious about you, willing to help in case you need it, and of course eager to make their businesses much better!

I am really impressed with the students at the center.  They are so smart!  Also, the fact that the kids come to the center as a voluntary act means a lot; they really want to learn and they enjoy doing it.

After the first day of just being a listener in the classes, I started to participate, mostly focusing on the kids that need more effort to follow the lesson.  I am so grateful to seec0da12d7-e847-4ff9-adfe-6b158c53e860 that a little effort from me can help them that much.  And of course, to get the attention back to the class, for the most distracted kids!

Last Saturday, we had a special activity day.  It is a big challenge to find a new activity for the kids, that is suitable for all ages. I proposed the paper craft called Cootie Catcher and the famous Pictionary.  Fortunately, they all loved it!

Let’s see what next week holds…

Medan Voluntourist: Last Days

By:  Carolina, Voluntourist MedanIMG-20160417-WA042_edit

I can’t believe this was my last week, and I only have one more day.  How am I going to survive without my kids?  Whether we want them to or not, there are always kids that leave a mark in our hearts and I will miss them so much!  Besides the kids, there are always the Co-Directors that are amazing and do everything to make us feel at home.  I loved this experience and definitely will come back and advise everyone to come here too.

So I’ll talk a little bit more about my week and less about my feelings (haha). This week was simple, I assisted SD 2 and Junior class.  All the kids wanted to learn and that spirit gave us motivation to teach.

IMG-20160425-WA001On the weekend I went to Bukit Lawang (Lawang Hill).  Bukit Lawang is a small village with a river called Bahorok, in North Sumatera.  We used simple public transportation to get us there for 2-3 hours more less. It has an amazing view.  We did a simple rafting trip (with 3 tubes bound together to be a small raft).  Bukit Lawang is also known for the animal sanctuary of Sumatran Orang Utan (the big Ape).  Since we just had one day, we only did the rafting.  I definitely recommend visiting this place.  A good way to spend the weekend, with a short trip!

Hello from Aceh Center!

By:  Sahat, Co-Director Aceh

13000219_983520641717739_4166695342902758756_nThis week I had my first full days working at the IHF Aceh center, as I have recently transferred from Medan to Aceh.  I was able to train with Emma and Kristine at the center for a short time before they left for the IHF Jakarta center.  During my time with them, they trained me on everything about how the center works.  They introduced me to the classes and the children at the center.  They are the best co-directors!  At first I was worried about handling everything by myself, but all is running well so far.  The children are very good here; the classes are going well because they are amazing students.13007331_983515708384899_7814058128761926971_n (1)

I feel very blessed to be here.  The children have a big curiosity to learn the lessons.  It surprised me to see that children come extra early to the center because they want to learn more.  They come early to read books in the library and discuss their homework with the teachers at the center.  I like being a part of their life here and the people are very friendly; they love to meet new-comers and open their hearts to everybody.

12998394_983522541717549_4528292087882676621_oWe have great local teachers to help us teach the classes at the center.  They are generous teachers and willing to share their time and their knowledge with the children.  They do this work without getting anything back in return.  These experiences have added many unforgettable moments in my life.  I will never forget this!


By:  Ana, Work Study NakuruWP_20160402_16_18_35_Pro

My name is Ana and I am from Valencia, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  I left my country almost eight years ago to move to London (UK).  I have also lived in New Zealand and Australia, but there has always be one place, one continent that made my heart beat every time I thought about visiting or living; Africa.  I left my job in Australia to travel around Africa.  I have been in nine countries around East Africa and I fell in love with its people and its cultures.  It is a fascinating continent that leaves you with a sweet and sour feeling for its beauty and the sadness of seeing so much poverty and injustice.

After three months of travelling I decided to come back to Kenya to do some volunteer work with IHF.  IHF works with disadvantaged children that have been placed in a children’s home by the community chief, due to the extreme poverty in their own community of East Pokot (a province in western Kenya, close to the border with Uganda).   IHF runs six centers across the globe, in Kenya, Thailand and Indonesia.  I arrived at the center in Nakuru last Friday, and as soon as I DSC04819arrived the guards and some of the children came out and welcomed me.  Which, after my long trip from South Africa, made me feel much better.

I am a work-study volunteer and I will be working for two weeks before I return to Spain.  I have been living at the center for three days now, in the same conditions as the children, and what I can say at this point is that it is definitely not easy.  I have traveled around many African countries prior to my arrival at the center and I saw the living conditions of many communities, but you never get used to seeing it.  I was shocked when I saw 49 children living at the center in very basic conditions (but obviously much better that the conditions of where they came from and with much better care).
But what is even more shocking is that the smiles on their faces never disappear.  No matter how little they have, they always keep smiling. That is what gives me strength to keep going DSC04817every day.  It is a huge thing to get used to life in developing countries.  Some people find it harder than others, but having no proper shower, no washing machine, no proper kitchen, electricity and water cuts, and very basic food to eat every day is definitely not easy.

Changes like that, when we are used to all the commodities that are available to us in western countries, are definitely a big challenge.  It is a process, but it is all about adjusting and overcoming.  Overcoming your fears and realising that life is not about a shower or a nice roast pork for dinner; it is about a smile, about a sense of community, about helping each other without asking anything in return, about love and compassion, and about trying to keep those smiles as big as possible no matter how little you have.

3 Things I Learned in Bali

By:  Ina, Work Study BaliIMG_3497

First of all I have to say that I am really glad I decided to volunteer with IHF in Bali.  It’s been an awesome opportunity for me to work with kids, improve my abilities, and have an insight to how a NGO can be organized.  But now to the three most important things I have learned the last month:

1.) I learned to leave the world I’m used to behind.

It doesn’t make any sense to compare this place to where most of us volunteers come from.  Doing that you would only see what’s missing here, but you wouldn’t be giving this area any justice.  Yes, you’re only able to get two to three sorts of jam, finding pasta is a IMG_3494highlight, and you’re happy when you’re able to get three different colors of paper for the kids to do crafts with.  But if you look past that, you would see that this is a very rich place.  Rich in things we tend to forget about in our world.  You only need five stones to play a game with your friends, and for going to the beach with your family you don’t need anything more than those people to have a good time.  The people here really know that.

2.) I learned how to teach (well, I learned the basics at least!)

I had never taught before coming here and was quite nervous about that part.  My first lesson plan took me ages and let’s face it, the lesson was not that great in the end.  But as time goes on you get better, you get more used to your new tasks and more confident with your new position.  And seeing the kidsIMG_3471 improve is well worth the effort!

3.) I learned how to ride a scooter!

It may sound surprising that I put this on the list, but where the center is located in Bali, this is crucial.  But don’t be put off by that, it’s really not that difficult!  And to be honest, it’s quite fun to get around on a scooter here.

Luckily I still have two more months here and I’m curious what I’ll learn in that time.  I’m looking forward to all those upcoming experiences

A Day of Adventures

By:  Teresa, Co-Director Thailand

I’ve only been in Thailand for three weeks, and I’ve already seen so much!  This week one of our work-study volunteers, Hernan, and I were able to take a trip out to Baan Dam, also known as the Black House Museum.  It is a collection of buildings, items, and artwork all belonging to Thawan Duchanee, a nationally recognized artist in Thailand.  Some of artwork included a lot of skulls, and was a little dark for IMG_1556my tastes, but none-the-less it was very interesting to see.

On our way home we detoured over to Tham Tu Pu and Wat Tham Phra, two caves with statues of Buddha in the inside.  They are near the Kok River, so afterwards we relaxed in one of the huts by the river, and dipped our feet in the cool water.  There were lots of Thai people swimming and having a great time there.

When we got home we were astonished to find that the old abandoned airport by the center had been transformed!  There was a giant concert stage set up, with a walled-in concert area and a huge crowd of Thai people around.  Of course we had to go check it out, and IMG_1564the guards ended up letting us in for free!  This was probably because it turned out that there were only a few songs left, but it was still great to see.  The band was Carabao, one of Thailand’s most famous rock bands!

It was a lot of excitement for one day, but I love that there is always something fun to do here in Chiang Rai!

First Impressions: Medan

By:  Carolina, Voluntourist MedanIMG_3660 (1)

In this first week here I was so well receive by everyone!  The house-keeper is very sweet, the food is delicious, and I have had the pleasure to try a different local dish every day.  The kids are lovely and the Co-Directors Lissa and Aditi made me feel at home and very welcome. Since I’m the only volunteer, they took me out and we visited some places, including a cultural event with a “famous Indonesian singer”.  I got a Henna tattoo as well!

This week I only assisted in the classes, but the students are amazing!  I loved to see that they really want to learn; sometimes they come early and stay late after the classes.  That surprised me because it is something that I would never see at home.  I’m very happy that they recognize that this is good for their future, and that they value all the work that is done.

IMG_3586The special activity that I prepared this week was to teach them a little bit about the continents and oceans.  I made a map and cut out the continents and the oceans so that they could stick them in the right place.  After that we painted the map, and hopefully now they know a little bit more about the continents.

Super Heroes for Super Kids

By: Gabby, Co-Director Jakarta

This week our special activity was to create super heroes! All of the students were very excited, and we had a larger than normal turnout. Seeing the student’s anticipation throughout the week for this Friday special activity was great. Both the boys and the girls were excited. Who doesn’t love super heroes?

IMG_2234For this super craft, we needed Popsicle sticks. Thankfully we had recently bought some, so it was not an issue. We also needed some paint, and some super glue. The paint was to add the details. The super glue was used to put two of the Popsicle sticks together, creating a larger work area for painting on the super hero’s.

Before we started the craft, Emma, who has transferred here with Kristine from Aceh, created some examples for the students to look at. I think she had just as much fun as the kids! Then when it was 5:00pm, it came time for the students to try it out.IMG_2231

Like I said, this was a pretty popular special activity, but we were well prepared. As usual, Fika and Oktavina were there to help us out. The students made the Green Lantern, Wonder Women, and Iron Man. All in all the activity was a huge success. Hooray for super heroes!

Beautiful Children, Beautiful Kenya

By:  Aggie, Co-Director KenyaWP_20160327_11_17_57_Pro

My name is Aggie and I`ve been volunteering in Nakuru Center for nearly 6 months now. Time is flying by unbelievably fast here, it feels like Christmas was only yesterday and now it is already Easter!

We are continuing the work with our kids, having homework club and giving individual assistance and support. We are now all preparing for the end-of-term exams so there has been a lot of studying going on lately.

WP_20160321_17_10_21_ProThe kids study very hard and try to get the best grades that they can. At the same time we are all in the upcoming holiday mood, looking forward to relaxing and having time off from school!

Last week another volunteer and I spent a wonderful few days off in the eastern part of Kenya, known for magnificent lakes with islands, vast semi-arid landscapes, and breath-taking views. It was a very relaxing experience, full of adventure andWP_20160326_06_48_16_Pro spontaneous situations. We had a lot of fun! We are now back at the center, with much
more energy to work and share our enthusiasm with the kids, so to motivate them even more in their studies.

We all hope the exams will go well for them and that soon they will be enjoying their well-deserved holidays. We are all looking forward to it!

Silence Day in Bali


IMG_3499 [3105894]By: Ina, Work-Study Bali

The 9th March 2016 in Bali was a bit different than in the rest of the world. On that day the Balinese celebrate Nyepi-Day or Silence Day, the New Year’s day of the Balinese Calendar. The title “Silence Day” fits pretty well, because nobody is allowed to leave his or her house on that day (doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local), shouldn’t turn on lights, work or use any entertainment devices. The reason behind this is that it should be a day to meditate and to think about the past year, and to be ready for the year to come.

For us at the center that meant one day without having the kids around and hearing nothing apart from the waves of the sea and some roosters. Only then you IMG_3413realize what noises you get used to hear while being

here. It feels strange to know you’re not allowed to go out of the center on Silence Day even though there are times anyway where you’re staying in here for the whole day. It made us realize once again how important the freedom of movement is.

The evening before Nyepi-Day is the complete opposite. There are parades on the street with big statues (called ogoh-ogoh) depicting the evil accompanied by gamelan music and percussion instruments. We were invited to dinner before that from the family of one of IMG_3464our students and had a traditional Balinese meal with them, before getting dressed in a Sarong for attending the parade. For me this was the first time having a very traditional Balinese dinner and as well the first time wearing a Sarong. All dressed up we went to the parade which was very energetic and (contrary to the next day) noisy and full of new impressions. So we were following the men carrying the statues and the kids were dancing to the music – You just didn’t have any other choice than to smile and to enjoy the atmosphere.