By Giovanni, Voluntourist.
Coming to IHF Medan was the right choice. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming, both inside and outside of the center. As in most places off the tourist trail, people are glad to have visitors, curious to know why I chose to come here, and reward with smiles all my attempts to speak broken Indonesian. They ask me to take pictures with them, and when they see me passing by on a motorbike they wave and yell “hello!”.
There is a great team of co-directors here. They are passionate about what they do, and always find the time to both teach and manage the center, and to have a tea with me at the warung next door. Several local volunteers also donate their knowledge and skills to the kids, which seem very enthusiastic and keen to attend the classes. It’s not just about English, maths, and computers: we’ve had a very active week. Besides their classes, some of our students stay with us to get ready for an event that will take place in a couple of weeks. They practice singing and acting, and I can see them getting better and better every day.
As for me, it has been a non-stop cultural and language exchange. One of the highlights was a wedding ceremony that we attended on Wednesday, as we were invited by the mother of one of our students. One of her family members was getting married, and I was able to learn about the traditions of their tribe: the Batak. In the Batak ritual, all close relatives donate an elegant red piece of cloth to the bride and the groom, and take turns to wrap them in it.
Since there are normally no classes on Friday, we organized a special afternoon session for the kids to learn about new things they are not familiar with, while practicing their English. Jenifer and I went though a presentation with the kids, showing them images and videos, and exposing them to a wide variety of topics, all somehow related to the English-speaking world. We sang the Beatles, got entertained by surfers and rugby players, spoke Singlish, and learnt about Nelson Mandela.
It was a fantastic first week, and I look forward to the upcoming ones. Stay tuned!