by Dustin, Co-director, IHF Banda Aceh
After I had been at the IHF Center in Aceh a little while, I told people that nothing had surprised me. This was true – the hiring team did a really excellent job of preparing me for the position and the local area. Something I could not have predicted, however, was how I would change over the course of the year, not just as a professional, but as a person. Yes, living abroad for a year and working with children in a place like Indonesia would be expected to be a life-changing experience for anyone. The biggest effect, however, was not from living abroad, it was from the people with whom I lived, worked, and spent almost every waking hour. It takes a special kind of person to want to travel all that way and give up a part of one’s life to help children in need. That’s not self-aggrandizing – I saw this selfless attitude so much more in everyone else in the organization, and it inspired me to match their dedication. Nonetheless, my days were surrounded by an atmosphere that was engaged yet relaxed – a quality Indonesian people could teach to more of the world.
There was always so much to be done in my position – the variety of assignments was incredible. Yet, it was not overwhelming because I always felt like I had the support and time to accomplish everything that was necessary. Working with such committed people, and truly feeling appreciated for what we did – these things kept me motivated throughout my time.
For the short amount of time I was there – one year really is not that long – it’s amazing how close I truly felt to the community. Friends would call me brother.
High school students would drop by just to talk or play cards. Parents would bring us food. The way they would talk about previous Co-Directors and volunteers, I knew the members of our organization always had a lasting impact. I hope I’ve done the same, because they’ve all certainly affected me.
Every piece of literature IHF produces talks about the organization’s “Pass it on” philosophy, and I really feel like this is truly the case. The skills I gained as a Co-Director have helped me to move on to another position back home, from which I will continue to dedicate my life to serving the poor and underprivileged. I see this in our local Indonesian volunteers as well – their time of service is very valuable to their futures, helping them accomplish their goals. Of course, the focus of all our efforts – the children – are given the greatest gift. As they speak more English and gain in academic confidence, it’s amazing to see them grow in confidence, and consider things for their own futures that never seemed in the realm of possibility.