How IHF Changed My Life

By: Mengjie, Work-Study Bali

It is my second week at Bali center, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to
come here. Although the first day the kids and I are were strangers to each
other, they still give me the best welcome I’ve ever had. They are so zealous and have enthusiasm for everything. At first, I thought it would be hard to remember their Indonesian names, but I’ve found that everything happens naturally. I became familiar with each kid while playing with them, learning their characteristics and fortes. They are all quick learners, always curious and passionate. They are naughty sometimes too, but always know when to stop. Most of time they just do that to play with you.

IMG_2889They are even my teachers sometimes. So far, they have already taught
me two magic tricks and how to make a flower using tissue paper. I learned so
much from them and the environment here makes me a happier and easier person.
Living in cites, there are so many things that seem important, brands, a big house, makeup, which all turn out to be unnecessary once you get here. The kids
love and respect you for who you are. You can definitely throw out those things that you find hard to give up, but alienate you from being yourself. It feels good and you should definitely stop hesitating and come to IHF. It will be one of the most treasured memories in your life.

IMG_2954Since this is the second week, I have started to have teaching tasks. My co-director gives me great advice, such as separating knowledge points to make them more understandable for kids, and try to always interact with the kids to attract their attention and let them think for themselves. What’s more, the way IHF staff work and communicate online is worth learning. All the files are in drives are clearly sorted and the Excel documents are clear and helpful. It’s a pity that as a voluntourist I don’t do online work, but overall I enjoyed my time so much and I think it is a wonderful experience to be a volunteer in IHF center.


Four Days in Singapore

By:  Teresa, Co-Director Medan

Last week I was able to take my four-day break, and I went to Singapore!  One of our local volunteers, Jeni, came with me and we had a great time.  Buddha Tooth Relic TempleWe stayed at a little hotel in the center of Chinatown, next to some excellent Chinese restaurants.  We were also conveniently located near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is a Buddhist temple and museum, housing one of Buddha’s teeth.

Teresa & Jeni



Our big night out was dinner at the Sky on 57 restaurant, at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. We dressed in our best, and pretended like we belonged there, amongst the other wealthy customers (while stealthily trying to order only the cheapest items on the menu).  The view was amazing, and definitely worth it.  Nothing beats having a meal at 57 stories high!

Speaking of heights, we also took a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which is a giant Farris wheel.  It provided some beautiful views of the city.  I was surprised at how slowly it moved, creeping alongView of Singapore at night at 30 minutes per rotation.  It is quite dissimilar to the clunky Farris wheels from the county fairs back home! I also had the opportunity to satisfy my girly side, with some shopping at Bugis Village – a local-style market with lots of clothes, shoes, and jewelry.  I even found a great dress for only $4 USD!

I think my favorite activity was simply walking around the city at night.  For a person who normally doesn’t like cities, I was surprised to find Singapore very beautiful, especially at night.  The area we were in was very well laid-out for foot traffic, and exceptionally clean.  There were also many restaurants and shops, and it was very tourist-friendly. Since our time there was limited, there were still quite a few things that we did not get the chance to do, like visit Universal Studios.  I love roller coasters, so that just means that I will have to visit again!


A Week of Achievement!

By: Sarah, Co-Director IHF Thailand

We have had a very intense week in Chiang Rai.

We are in the rainy season and this was definitely a rainy week. As a result, we did a lot of cleaning work because our roof is broken and every time it rains, the center resembles a swimming pool. The bad weather caused us to experience many other problems, outside of the center too. Remembering that our main modes of transportation are scooters and bikes, it was almost impossible to go outside without get completely soaked.

Arisa and Sarah's selfieOn the bright side, the rain gives us a lot of time to spend with each other. This week, we watched movies, took plenty of selfies and had the most exciting conversations with everyone at the center.

Arisa!!!!!!!The highlight of this week was on Sunday, when I had the opportunity to be fiercely proud of our students Arisa, Kantiya and Darid. We visited their school and I discovered that all three of them received top scholarships for next term.

That is incredible news to us as they are extremely good, hardworking students and it is wonderful to see them rewarded for their efforts. I had the honor of accompanying Arisa onstage to receive her certificate as a student with one of the best averages of the last term.

Our students’ results are as follows:

Arisa ended with an average of 3.64 (out of a maximum of 4);
Kantiya ended with an average of 3.34;
and Darid ended with and average of 3.09.

These extraordinary results confirmed to us that our center’s young students are intelligent and capable of doing anything.

I’m very proud of them and I wish them all the success for the future.

Sweet kiss for Nupon

A Lesson in Love

By: Yaqing, Work-Study Nakuru

The water is a mystery here. Before I came here, I got used to the idea of no hot showers. And I figured I could tolerate that. When I arrived here, I was told that there is not even cold running water. We use water from a big tank, and the water company comes to refill the tank when it runs out.


Fortunately, two weeks later water started to come regularly, and it was then we started to be disappointed and satisfied. The water may come in the morning or afternoon. It may come after three days, and nobody can wash their uniforms, take showers, or even drink. When the water comes, all the kids are so happy; we wash our clothes, take showers, and save water in buckets—and that’s when there is a shortage of buckets. As a volunteer who needs to prepare the cooking portion for the next day, I can’t always find buckets for storing the rice, ugali, or sugar. They’ve been saved for water or used by others.



I’d never thought about the severe shortages of everything before I came here—and I find myself using “before I came here” a lot these days. We need buckets for kids, plates to have dinner, uniforms, and needlework…and we don’t always have enough money to purchase food. However, I’m impressed by how much the kids are happily tolerating the difficult situations here. I’ve never heard them complaining about anything. I can feel that they love here so much and they have such a strong desire to go to school. And I can also see how good their behavior is. I remember somebody said, “when you come to volunteer for kids, it’s not them being helped, it’s yourself that’s being helped.” And I know well what he is saying now.


Undiagnosed Culture Shock

By: Kristine, Co-Director Jakarta

For over 3 months, I had culture shock and didn’t know it.

It was while I was in Jogja during May that I finally realised that I had been caught in Indonesian culture shock since I got here at the end of January, and that I had only recently exited it.
Our lovely Jakarta volunteers

I remember quite clearly the minute it occurred to me. I had just left Ullen Sentalu museum and was driving through a picturesque part of the countryside, headed to Prambanan, when it hit me. I like Indonesia. In fact, I’m happy that I’m here and experiencing life in Southeast Asia. I finally realised that before that moment, I was suspended in like it/dislike it limbo because I had allowed myself to focus too much on the differences between what I was used to and where I am now.

Tegalalang Waterfall in Ubud
When I left Jamaica, I honestly never thought about culture shock as a possibility. I was too excited to be on my way to live in a totally new place. Also, I’ve been travelling since I was a toddler so I wouldn’t exactly call myself unexposed. Because of these things, it never occurred to me that I would have difficulty adjusting to life here.

I’m not sure when I got over it. It may been when one of our local volunteers here in Jakarta generously tried to help me with my Indonesian, just because.  Seeing the beauty of Bali’s Ubud and watching the sun rise behind Jogja’s Mt. Merapi helped, for sure. One of my cabbies to the airport during my monthly days off enthusiastically singing along with me to Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck On You” was a part of it (fun times). My Indonesian friend stopping to buy me ‘honey’ snake fruit as we zoomed through the Jogja countryside, just because they thought I’d like it, was a definite contributor.
Sunrise behind Smoking Mt. Merapi
That afternoon, as I made my way to Prambanan, I realised that what had really brought me out of my culture shock was the natural beauty of the places I had seen and the kind and generous people of this country.

Yup. I definitely like Indonesia.

5 Reasons to hate Bali

By: Santiago, Voluntourist Bali

WP_20160610_15_49_56_Pro (1)Nowadays, all of us usually prepare our voyages through seeking information on the web about the places we are curious about. But even when we find many positive reviews, we often focus our attentions to the negative ones. Nowhere is perfect! It is true; there is no perfect place because there are so many differences between the places we know and the places we would like to know.This can be even more complicated if we are talking about volunteering.

The Internet makes it easy to find information, but still you have your own doubts and securities. So let us address some head-on. Below are some good reasons why to hate Bali and why you should not join the IHF Centre.

1- You like the cold weather.

Ok, forget about coming. The heat here is all-year round, though the nights are warm and the mornings are fresh enough to take an early walk. But throughout the rest of the day, you will experience heat hot enough for you to want to refresh yourself though taking a bath in the pool or at the beach, drinking delightful juices, or joking with other people under the shadow of a tree… So, if you do not like heat, this is not your place – no perfect for you.

2- You are shy and do not like to talk with other people.

WP_20160608_14_34_39_ProReally, really…Don’t come here or around! Definitely, this place is not perfect for you. There are quite a lot of wonderful things in this island but the people here is the most wonderful of all. Maybe you’ve read about the charm of the Balinese people before, but let me tell you it will surpass your expectations. The people here have such good manners and they make you feel so comfortable and safe. It has no possible comparison with anywhere else. And you can multiply that by one hundred percent if we’re talking about Balinese kids. So, if you don’t want to know new people, if you prefer not to say good morning to people you have not met yet, if you don’t want to be informed, advised, guided, carried, helped or whatever…this is not a perfect place for you.

3- “There’s no place like home. There’s is no place like home”
If that’s your main idea when you’re abroad then don’t leave home. The place you are going to find here is going to be quite different from home; it will give you another perspective of life.

4- Bail is an overexploited, touristy place.
If this means that, for you, Bali is not wild enough, I only can say: rent a bike and enjoy the traffic. But if it means that you IMG-20160608-WA0001think  that the touristic exploitation reduces the problems of natives to give education and opportunities to their children, you are really confused about that. The overexploitation causes serious damages to their environment and unbalances the social systems in place here. In a place like this, even if you are pretty clever, if the most important industry only requires waitress, cleaners and gardeners, you will find a limit in the public education that only allows you those kinds of jobs. Helping the children imprve their education is necessary, as it prepares the people for the day when their situations change and the wild environment you love recovers.

5- ” I am only interested in my own”

Be mature or get lost!

Crafting at IHF Aceh center

By:  Sahat, Co-Director Aceh

This week, we organised special activities with our SD students. We have something different which is the students make a short story with pictures in each paragraph. I really like to see how they do such a good job. This is also to challenge them and to see how well they are in terms of reading a text and this is good to explore their imagination and creativeness.


DSCN0097We also have Yola, our math teacher who always helps us with our special activities with children at the center. She has been with us for almost three months now. She is quite easy to get along with anybody here, friendly, easy going. Her students really like her so much, and Yola is just like their older sister. She has a good time to spend with the children such as play games, help with homework and she likes making jokes with her students. Yola can handle her class well. She has good skills in terms of arts. Last time, she made workshop about art class, to draw pictures with their favourite carton player from the movie. Students really enjoyed it and had fun. That’s why the students really admire her a lot. Yola has lots of ideas to share and willing to dedicate her quality time for our arts class.
Our special activity is always full of fun and happy learning every time. We organise it after
a regular class for students is finished. This month, we have just few students coming to the center to study. It’s due to DSCN1985Ramadhan month ad students with their family go to their village for vacation. One student who loves attending craft session is Athaya, our SD5 student. Athaya is a talented girl. She likes crafting and never miss any special activity for crafting. Last time she made flower craft. She did great!

Carnivals, Daredevils, & Dances!

By: Teresa, Co-Director IHF Medan

IMG_7717I am just beginning to explore some of the activities Medan has to offer. One fun activity I enjoyed this week was going to a small carnival that was set up near the center; they had cotton candy and rides – just like they would in the US. I went with our previous co-director, Lissa, and a large group of students from our junior and senior classes. It was hilarious watching everyone squeal and laugh while on the rides.

 IMG_7716At the carnival, there was also a motorcycle daredevil show. During the show, a rider rode around inside a giant barrel to the point where he was completely horizontal. The onlookers held out bills for him to grab as he went by. Lissa taunted him by pulling the money back just as he went to grab it. He retaliated by riding right up to the edge of the barrel, which put the bottom of his wheels less than a foot from our faces. In Indonesia, this event is called “tong setan”, which means “devil barrel”.  Lissa mentioned that it is called this due to the prevailing myth that for the riders to have such amazing abilities, they must be possessed by a demon. I encourage readers to search up “tong setan” on YouTube as it is pretty amazingIMG_7701 to witness!


In addition, this week, I was also very lucky to see a beautiful dance done by four of our junior class students. They wore lovely yellow outfits and used fans as props. The dance was a traditional Melayu dance – another amazing thing to see!Overall, this has been an exciting week and I am enjoying my time here in Medan.


We have a Lot of Friends at the Center

By: Sarah, Co-Director IHF Thailandchicks

This week in Chiang Rai was a normal, busy week.

It was raining even more than last week, and so we were not able to do a lot due to the bad weather.

For this week’s post, I would like to tell you about the friends we have living with us at the center.

We have a frog that you have to be careful to not trample on during the night, which actually quite a common occurrence here.

We have a lot of different snakes – big and small. Luckily, we found out quite recently that they are not dangerous snakes. Still, they scare us a lot. You always have to be careful aLazy Bobobout what are you moving towards and where you are walking.

We have a lot of tiny spiders (black and white); they are annoying because they sting just like mosquitoes and cause itching. Obviously, these are our more irritating friends.

Then, we have some big spiders too. They are fast and so it is very difficult for us to hunt them. We only want to move them farther away from the center, we swear!

We also have a lot of chickens that continue to raise chicks. They are very sweet to see, but at the same time, they are very annoying because they are messy.

We have a rooster too! He is very colorful and he sings all the time.lizard

We have a very lazy cat, Bobo. He is sweet and cuddly. One of our nicer, more pleasant friends.

During the night, all around the center, fireflies fill the air. It is an amazing spectacle – watching them fly and brighten the grass around us.

We have a lot more friends: lizards of all sizes, small crabs, small scorpions, cockroaches and a lot of more insects. But we will leave those for another time!

Over the past two months in IHF’s center in Chiang Rai, I saw a lot of animals I have never seen before.  It is amazing to see how it is possible to live with them safely once you know how!

Inspiration and Secret Spaces

By: Innocent, Work-Study NakuruIMG_20160602_182426

The mood at the Nakuru centre has settled down. It seems like we have become accustomed to each other.  I have settled into the lifestyle, and it almost seems like home now. From a Ted Talk night, movie night, a trip to the river, and raffles, this week was filled by many events. This is due to the presence of the numerous volunteers who arrived this week. The influx of people brought with it ideas — great ideas I might add.

IMG_20160601_105849This week I substituted a teacher for a life skills class that the kids usually have every week. Considering that I do not have that much life skills or experience, I drew inspiration from others. I chose 3 Ted talks that were pertinent to the kids’ situation. One was by Richard Turere, a young intelligent boy coming from similar contexts as the students. He found a way to use flashing lights to chase away lions from his family’s livestock in Kenya. They found this inspirational and interesting how simple ideas can contribute to the development of communities. The discussion we had was profound and deeply seeded.IMG_20160601_132515

Following this, the kids invited the volunteers to go see the waterfall close by where they go to swim. It was hard to say no. So we took a 15 minute hike to the river, sharing stories and taking in the green scenery. When we arrived at the waterfall it was clear why the kids came here as often as possible. The water was not clear or warm but it was an incredible playing ground. There is something about going to a river that soothes the soul, the atmosphere was calm; smiles were all around. The worst part was having to leave. I was very thankful that they showed me this precious secret.