Written by Joyce, Co-Director, Nakuru
Last week I spent most of my time visiting primary schools, and it wasn’t the first time I went to schools our kids enrolled in. Most of my visits are because of school fees.
Primary education in Kenya is supposed to be free and all of the text books are provided by school. It sounds very promising, and in favor of children who are from less privileged background. However, education for these children is far from free. Children are asked to pay tuition, to donate money for school to buy footballs, to compensate teachers’ tea expenses ( teachers claim that they come school very early in order to tutor kids to better prepare for coming national exams so they need to be compensated morning tea), to buy text books, and to pay for school desks. Everyday kids get beaten for different reasons. I refused to give children in primary school tuition that I know will go into the pockets of their teachers and not to the students education. I went to school every time a child told me that they had been beaten at school for not paying school fees. When I asked what the tuition is for, teachers will respond that it is not required but it’s good that if children could pay as they work day and night for these kids.
You will never be able to imagine how abusive the words from these teachers and principals as educators are to the children. I understand that these teachers, as educated adults, do not get paid a fair amount for their work, but it is not the innocent kids that should pay for this unfairness. Children are quite used to be beaten. When talked about it they act like it’s no big deal, this is the most depressing part. As a result, kids grow up with an ideology that it is okay to beat someone if she/ he makes a mistakes. Sometimes I think the children would be better off staying home with qualified teachers we hired ourselves. However, at this moment, it is not financially and legally feasible. What is the solution?
After a rather hectic week at the Medan center I decided to spend my weekend at Lake Toba. It felt good to be out in the nature again after 2 weeks of non-stop traffic noise and smog.
I left Medan very early in the morning and arrived at Parapat just before noon. I crossed the huge lake on a small touristic ferry playing upbeat 90s songs while violently going up and down on Danau Toba’s restless waves. By the time the ferry reached Samosir island I was happy to have my feet on a dry land again!
On the island I rented a scooter and spent the rest of my day exploring the small fishing villages and surrounding hills, enjoying the many beautiful views it had to offer. It was very nice to get around by scooter for a change, instead of a local Becak. I had to quickly learn how to ride a manual scooter as I’d only driven automatic ones before. I used my new antique friend to get from one village to another, only to get off and take a stroll along the hundreds of souvenir shops in Tomok village. I even saw a glimpse of the traditional Batak dances there and met an older Belgian couple. It was a relief to be able to speak in my own language again, for however brief it was.
Due to Samosir island’s location there was always a very cool breeze present, sometimes making me regret that I left my sweater at the center. The weather wasn’t always as sunny as I would have hoped so I didn’t have the chance to take a swim in the Lake’s blue waters. Nonetheless, I was glad to get some fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
All in all I loved spending time there and could have easily stayed another two or three days. However by nightfall it was time for me to leave again. Another 5 hours of travel later I found myself back in Medan, but this time feeling more relaxed than before and being slightly more appreciative of Medan’s hot weather!
I arrived to IHF Bali Center on the evening of Saturday October 1st. The center was very quiet since only the co-directors were living, the other volunteers had gone home the previous day. Agata, one of the co-directors, was very accommodating and showed me around the center, and gave me a quick tour of Buitan Village where the center is located. I was exhausted from traveling all the way from Chicago, IL so I called it a night after the tour.
The next morning, I awoke to the noise of all the creatures that live with us at the center; lizards, mice, birds, bugs etc. It was Sunday, everyone’s day off, so the center was very quiet. I would quickly learn during the week the center is not normally a quiet place, but full of the sounds of kids playing downstairs and learning upstairs in their classes upstairs. I am not volunteering in the traditional teacher role at IHF, but instead I am helping with the accounting and finance side of the organization. Therefore, I do not have as much contact with the kids as other volunteers. The kids bring a fun and light energy to the center that breaks up my day on the computer. I am trying to interact with the kids even though I am not teaching. I even helped to prepare a special activity for the kids one day. We made Sharks.
Bali Center is great not only for the support they give the community, but also for its location and all the amazing activities the island has to offer. In the two weeks that I have been in Bali, I have already learned how to scuba dive and climbed a volcano. Agata joined me for the climbing of the volcano. We left the center at 2am in the morning to arrive at the base of Mt. Batur by 4am. It was steep climb to the top, but we arrived with plenty of time before the sunrise. Based on the normal heat and humidity at the center, I would have never guessed I would feel cold in the all of the 2 months I plan to stay in Bali, but I was freezing at the top of the mountain. We enjoyed a hot coffee while waiting for the sunrise. A little shivering was worth the beautiful sunrise we saw.
I have six weeks left in my stay at the Bali Center. I am very excited to continue to learn about IHF Bali and the community surrounding the center. I am excited to continue to get to know the students who attend classes, and to explore more of this beautiful island.
Written by: Soufian, Co-Director, Chiang Rai
Here I’m again, a lonesome Moroccan at the Chiang Rai Center with two children and a frustratingly slow traveler PC. Two kids left the center for vacations and the other two are working full time, staying outside the center. Moreover, this week the housemother left, she moved to another place and found another job. From now on I have to share the center duties just with the children. So now that they are gone for two weeks, I’ll have to take a good care of the center, especially the garden that we started together.
At first, we wanted to plant a small garden in our yard, but the problem is that the ground there doesn’t get a lot of sun as the tree leaves block the sunshine most of the day. As a solution, the children suggested another place with more sunshine and as it turned out more land to grow vegetables. We got to work. Nupon was great at cutting the plants while Arisa and I collected them. We didn’t have all the necessary gardening tools, so we used what we were able to find at the center. Soon the land was ready.
The goals of this project were to show our children how to grow vegetables and take care of the garden as part of the house maintenance, as well as supplying us with some fresh and organic fruit and veggies.
This week we had also new board members visiting us to meet the children and talk about IHF at the family dinner. They didn’t speak English, but Pratya helped us communicate and translated what we said. I was glad to be part of this experience. They seemed very friendly and shared their experience in working with local organizations with us. Hopefully they will take care of this place and contribute to children’s education the same way IHF was doing for a long time in Chiang Rai.
Written by Isabel, Co-Director, Nakuru.
My name is Isabel and I work as a Co-Director at the Nakuru Center. I have been working for IHF for the last 8 months and I have come to learn a lot from the kids here.
I will try to share what the kids taught me about the thing they love the most – Chapati. Chapati is a form of a pancake or a flatbread and the kids here have a thing for the wheat. They love Chapatis so much they can basically drop anything if the possibility to make them appears.
In Kenya chapati usually goes well with a beef stew, beans, green grams or a potato stew. The children always volunteer to make the chapatis for themselves because they know that it gives them the opportunity to have a few bites here and there during the preparation. Maybe it is a little bit cheeky but I guess kids will always be kids! They know how to divide themselves into different groups and share responsibilities among them, since making chapatis can be a lot of work. There are those who make and mix the dough. There are those who roll the dough into pancake shapes. There are also those who fry it with small pinch of oil on the pans. And finally, there are those who pack the made chapatis into awaiting bags. Our chapatis are always made from different ingredients – eggs, milk, salt, sugar, wheat, grated carrots or lemons… Some put spices and others put food colour to add some beauty to their meal. It all depends on your preferences and capability to buy certain ingredients. You can also make them very simple by using wheat and water. I have come to learn that kids enjoy chapatis not only because of it’s flavour, but also because they are really filling and keep them full for a long time.
Still a very important thing is that chapatis are very tasty and one can be creative enough to make from them different delicious sandwiches with anything from fruits to chicken. Sometimes the kids buy already prepared chapatis from the canteens and make sandwiches out of them. They later eat them as a night or a morning snack. I am always looking forward to these days when we make them by ourselves as they are one of the most fun days at the Nakuru Centre.
(Written by Kristine)
A couple of months ago, I spent a few days in Jogja – proper name Yogyakarta – and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But my favourite time there was the morning of my first full day absorbing all that is Jogja.
That morning began for me at 3 am, when I got up to get ready because I was heading to Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple, to watch the sun rise. I was driving away from my hotel by 3:40 am and I got to Borobudur at about 4:30 am, where I paid the tourist entrance fee (locals get in for cheaper) and was given a flashlight and a map.
Off I went, following well-placed signs and other bobbing flashlights, climbing up the stupas of Borobudur in the darkness. I climbed up to the 8th stupa (there are 9) and since I was ahead of most of the huffing and puffing tourists climbing behind me, I found a great spot facing the east. I settled down to wait. After about an hour, the sun started to make an appearance. And I unexpectedly experienced the highlight of my time in Jogja. I watched the sun rise behind Mount Merapi, an active volcano which was smoldering and smoking as I looked on.
Slowly, the day crept up on us and I saw the mist in the valley below slowly disappear. It was breathtakingly beautiful and all I could do was soak it in and be thankful for the awesome privilege of witnessing this beautiful sunrise in this beautiful place.
Once the sun was properly up, I wandered around the temple for a while, then I checked out the museum, had a cup of coffee and some refreshment (fried banana and a sweet treat) and I was off again. But I went with my Borobudur experience safely tucked away in my heart.
Written by: Ronal, local volunteer, Aceh
I took my phone and looked at it. In one of my apps (LINE) I saw that my friends shared some interesting news within our group – IHF was looking for a teacher for their Aceh Center. I found that information very interesting and decided to apply since I was looking for some new experiences in my life. I called IHF Co-director and asked him about this foundation. He invited me to come to the center located in Geuceu Komplek. I went there and took part in the interview. I was a little bit afraid because it was the first time I was interviewed for a volunteering position. Mr. Sahat asked me a lot of question about my studies, previous teaching experience, my address, and my reasons to join IHF. Alhamdulillah, I answered all of his questions and received a proposition to work as a volunteer for International Humanity Foundation.
I was scheduled to teach classes SD3 and SD6. I found it challenging at that time, because I was afraid that my students won’t pay attention to what I say during the classes. But this feeling was lost when I read some motivational words that pushed me to work and try to be a good teacher.
On Saturday, I taught SD 3 students. It was my first class. I came to the class with my friend, Yanna Zahara. We study together at my college. We taught SD3 students together. I was focused on encouraging them to listen what I’m saying. I decided to sing a song to draw their attention to me and I was happy because it was a good move. After I finished, they listened to me till the end of the lesson. We were happy at that time.
On Monday, I had a class with SD 6 students, but this time I enjoyed myself a little bit more because before the class I have prepared myself very well. I taught them about storytelling and past continuous tense. I was very happy because they seem to understand the topic I was teaching.
I hope I can teach my students to be the best generation of the future and I hope they will develop this province (Aceh). For myself, teaching nowadays became a hobby. I feel proud when I can teach my students and help them become successful adults. Mr. Sahat told me a lot of motivational words. Now I feel that I want to be a better person, and I’m working on it more and more everyday.
Written by Tony, Co-Director, Medan
It’s been a little over a month since I arrived on these islands – Indonesia. This country never ceases to amaze me. I was surprised by the fact that this country is made up of more than seventeen thousand islands and has so many diverse cultures and traditions! Despite being a union of such a diversity, this beautiful South East Asian country is still one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The people of Indonesia are in general very generous, kind and accepting towards foreigners who they fondly call as Bule! Apart from a few local dishes, I haven’t tasted much of the cuisines this country has to offer yet. But it is enough to say that this country is quite famous for its spicy food and delicious seafood.
I used to have trouble with the local currency during my first days here because Indonesian currency has a lot of zeros. The smallest denomination is a 100 rupee coin and the largest one is 100,000. I used to be shocked when a parking fee counter reads 2000 for an hour and it used to take me a few seconds to realize that it is just 15 cents.
During my stay here, I have met some incredible people. People who left their jobs and dear ones back home just to serve and gain valuable experience, while working on different tasks and projects, ensuring that the organization is up and running efficiently. Each center’s environment is very diverse with people coming from all the parts of the world.
I had the opportunity to volunteer back in my country, so I already know that volunteering helps us change the way we view the society and makes us more sympathetic to the troubles of other people. But working for IHF has been a one of a kind of experience and I hope that it remains that way.
The students at the center are active and always curious to get to know different cultures. The interaction is not just between the students and the co-directors but it also happens among co-directors as well. Working on tasks as a team, going on weekend trips, and having a chance to build relationships that we hope will last a lifetime is a delightful experience!
I still have a long time to stay here and I’m looking forward to working with IHF and exploring the beautiful places this country has to offer!
Written by Laura and Jessica, Voluntourists, Bali
We are Laura and Jessica, two Spanish friends from Barcelona. Today is our last day in IHF Bali Center and we would like to summarize our two weeks here. Our first week was focused on adaptation. It was hard for us because of so many changes and new things to learn. But after all, we successfully overcame all of the obstacles!
This week we had plenty of activities in the center. We’ve almost attended all the classes and we have led three of them! On Wednesday we prepared a special activity for the children – “Table Games”. We introduced them to some famous Spanish games. First, kids had to draw their own “parchis”. They are very smart and draw two boards very quickly, without any problem! After that, we explained the rules of the game to everyone. Then, we split into two groups and played the game.We also prepared SD3 class with Agata’s help. She has been our reference at the center. If we had any problems she was always there to help and answer our doubts.
For this class, we made some flashcards of different kinds of food. We enjoyed drawing and preparing them for the kids! Finally, we taught Junior class with Clara. It was focused on listening comprehension – students had to listen to a song and then fill in the gaps in the worksheet. It was a busy day, but it was a real joy for us to help as much as possible!
We’ve had a great time on Bali, balancing our time between the center and exploration of the island. For us, Bali has been amazing! This island is wonderful and people here are very kind and respectful. We really appreciated their peaceful and joyful lifestyle. They have a smile for everybody!
The end of this adventure is coming, just a few hours before we have to leave the center. We think that it would have been better to stay longer than 2 weeks. We were just starting to feel confident with the students and the lessons. It’s a pity to leave now! We hope that the children have learnt something from us, for sure we have learnt a lot from them! They are really smart kids with a lot of energy!
Now we have to say goodbye, but we will always have Bali in our hearts!
Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta
I have now finished more than half of my time in Indonesia. It seems so long ago that I arrived here, but also like it was just yesterday.
During my first few months here, I had a mild case of culture shock. Thankfully, I got over it and finally started seeing the beauty of the people and the place; I finally began enjoying being in Indonesia. And even though I spent a few months wondering what the heck I was doing, I still learned so much – about myself, the world, and others.
First, I learned a new level of gratitude from witnessing in new ways the fact that many people have life far harder than I do. I will never again take for granted a solid roof over my head or a clean, pest-free environment. I’ve also learned how to be more flexible. From changing cities to changing rooms to changing teams, I’m learning so much more flexibility than I normally need to have.
When I arrived in Indonesia, I didn’t expect teaching to be something that I actually enjoyed, since I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. I always thought I was too impatient for that job. Yet, here I am, liking teaching my students and learning to be a good teacher.
A shining jewel among the many lessons I’ve learned here is the basic kindness and generosity of people. It may seem to go without saying that people are basically kind and generous, but examine your life and see if you really believe that. Don’t focus on what you say; check what your actions are telling you. My actions were telling me that I cynically believed that people always had an ulterior motive, that they were only o
ut for their own good and that there was really no such thing as a stranger with a truly kind heart. I was so wrong! From the start of this journey, I have been inundated with the kindness, generosity and friendliness of people: fellow co-directors, local volunteers, friends of volunteers, cab drivers, guides, tourists, the fruit guys…so much kindness everywhere!
I already feel so different from when I arrived here a few months ago. I feel like the same person but somehow different…better…new.
Thank you, Indonesia, for helping me grow in so many ways.