My Five Best Experiences with IHF Banda Aceh (In Chronological Order)

by Ilya, Work-Study, IHF Banda Aceh

I can’t believe how fast time flies. Six weeks ago, I wrote about my first of eight weeks that I would be spending at the IHF Banda Aceh center. Now, my time is almost up. I have gained incredible insights on the operations of an international non-profit, and now I am almost certain that there is nothing more that I want for my future than to realise my childhood dream of working for one. But more importantly, I have met people who have shared moments with me that I hope I will never forget.

1. 23rd May 2015: Hiking without Shoes at Kuta Melaka and Sunset at Lhok Nga
It was my first Saturday here. Dustin, Jessica and Anggara had made plans to go to Kuta Melaka, a highland with a waterfall located about one and a half hours’ ride away from the center. Dustin had insisted that I come along. Even though I was 1initially reluctant to do so, I’m glad he did. It was the first time I had to ride pillion on the motorbike for such a long period of time. We passed by rows after rows of mountains overlooking acres of green paddy fields. We rode through the countryside, where villagers were going about their daily chores. They would pause to stare at us, and we would exchange smiles. We dipped our sun-kissed toes into the cool, clear water. I honestly never knew Aceh had so much to offer. We then went to Lhok Nga to catch the sunset. That would be my first of many times watching the sun inch its way down the horizon at the beach.

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2.7. June 2015: Fun Games at Pass it On Ceremony

It was the Sunday after a week of exams. Emily, Dustin, Nazma, Sushi, George and I had spent the entire afternoon preparing for the Pass It On Ceremony, where students who topped their respective classes and had best attendances would be given prizes. After breaking my back packing an estimated 70 goodie bags consisting of risols and donuts, I watched as the earlybirds arrived. Smartypants Barry approached the registration counter and asked Emily, “Naik kelas empat? (Did I advance to the fourth grade?)” After more kids6 and their parents streamed in, we started playing games. I blew up balloons and filled them up with candy (or “permen”, as the kids call it). They would have to sit on the balloons and burst them in order to retrieve the candy. It was supposed to be a team game, but when I saw everyone running towards the balloons at once, I gave up trying to explain myself. We also played the classics – three-legged race, food-eating competition and the good ol’ piñata. The sun was merciless, and my feet were dirty from running around barefoot at the backyard. But that didn’t matter, because I remember very clearly how wonderful it felt for everyone to come together and have fun.

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3. 22nd May – 4th July 2015: Fundraiser
Even before I arrived, Emily had told me that I would be put in-charge of organising a fundraiser for the center. I initially had wanted to carry out an art fair. However, after consulting with the high7 school students, we decided to sell food instead. From the get-go, I knew that working with them would be an enriching experience. The high school students are a bunch of playful, dynamic and outgoing people. We had a few meetings to sort out the details of our fundraiser – what we were going to sell, how much each item would be sold for, how we were going to prepare the food. Our meet-ups entailed 10am mornings and working for 8 hours. Soon, we were meeting up not only to discuss about the fundraiser, but also to just hang out over bowls of mie bakso, Acehnese birthday bashes and horrible karaoke sing-alongs.

 

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4. 11 & 12 June 2015: Taekwondo Class
Throughout the summer, the Aceh center held special activities for the students. I deci10ded to conduct a taekwondo class for the kids, knowing that they really enjoy physical activities. What I did not know, however, was that some of them also take martial arts lessons. And this common ground really helped me break the ice with them and easily get to know them better. The kids’ favourite part of the lessons were definitely the board-breaking section. Dustin managed to find unused wooden planks lying around, so he helped to cut them into boards. They initially wanted to try breaking the boards using their hands, which was honestly impossible. When I managed to break one using a kick, they all seemed impressed and started cheering for me. It was an amusing situation to be in 

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5. Every Day: Masuk Kelas (and everything else related to it)
I will never get tired of hearing the co-directors shout, “Masuk kelas!” which means, “Get into class!” I do it too sometimes, and it’s such a joy to watch the15 kids run into the classrooms, albeit reluctantly at times. For the past month, I taught SD4 (4th graders), who are witty and smart, and extremely lovely to be around. Although it could get challenging at times, I really enjoyed the times I spent standing in front of the whiteboard. I also had a ball doing all the random things with students and volunteers of all ages before and after classes – taking photos, playing Uno (which is taken very seriously here), plucking mangoes and guavas from the trees in our backyard, having jump rope competitions and entertaining conversations.

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I’m now counting down the hours that I have before I depart. On the one hand, I can’t wait to go back and spend Eid with my family. On the other hand, a part of me knows that leaving will be a struggle. I am already thinking about the next time I’ll be back. But till then, I will keep the memories of this place close to me, and I will carry the essence of warmth, of hospitality and of acceptance of my newfound friends with me. And in the spirit of IHF, I hope to pass it on to those I meet back home. 

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