About International Humanity Foundation

Half of IHF's mission is to educate the poor and the other half is to educate the world about the poor. Our vision is to strive for a world of leaders and citizens who have interacted with, and are truly knowledgeable about the world's poor. We believe in a "pass it on" philosophy where education is free and available for all who seek it. Those of us who have received a free education pass it on by helping others less fortunate by teaching, interacting and learning. With just a few hours a week, our volunteers, children and sponsors are changing the world we live in. IHF is a non-religious, non-political, non-profit organization that strongly believes in an equal opportunity for all and in preserving the cultures, traditions and beliefs of the marginalized communities it works in.

Eat, Pray & Love in Jakarta

It’s been almost two weeks since I arrived at Jakarta center. The past two weeks have been an unbelievable adventure for me. Every moment was full of magic and enlightenment that I couldn’t believe how much I have grown and learned in such a short time. During my flight to Jakarta, I watched an award-winning movie called “Eat, Pray, Love”. It’s amazing how its concept also applies to my experience here, and it convinced me that this is more than just an coincidence. I feel like I am answering a godly command.

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I lived my whole life in Chongqing, China before I went to America for college. Growing up in a city famous for traditional Chinese cuisines and spicy food, I consider myself as someone who has a picky taste and a high tolerance for spicy food. But I started to doubt about myself the second day after I came here when Ayu, the local co-director, took me to try her favorite Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice) which made me cry because it was too hot. I was then further amazed when a 15-year-old girl, who grew up here, ate the whole thing without drinking any water.

It seems to me that they put chili in their every meal. That’s also what I saw in Indonesian people: quiet outside but vigorous inside. The more I get to know them, the more amazed I am by the sparks of their enthusiasm. Ayu, Rhama, and Joco are the locals who live in the center with me.  I was deceived by their calm and quiet appearance and manners until they started to give some witty comments and quick remarks. I just simply couldn’t explain how funny and interesting they are with a few words. I laughed so much more often each day here than before.

Talking about food, I have to mention our “chief”, Ibu. Ibu means “mom” in Indonesia. It can’t be more accurate because she is our mom and her food always reminds me of “home”. Other volunteers told me if you want to try the most candid Indonesian food, no matter how many restaurants you go, you will always come back to Ibu. Also, Ibu’s food is so much less spicy than the food sold outside, which makes me really happy. I’m very conservative when it comes to food, so it’s really hard for me to be willing to try and accept food that I’ve never had before. But when I started eating Ibu’s cooking, I couldn’t stop trying more. She makes me fall in love with Indonesian food.

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Pray

I’ve come at the right time. Ramadan started the third day after I came here. Before I actually experienced it myself, Ramadan was just another religious celebration that I read about on newspapers. During the whole month, the Muslims are supposed to fast during day time starting from sunrise to sunset. I was convinced by our co-directer, Maria, from Costa Rica, to fast together. We woke up everyday at 3:30 am for “Sahur”, which is like a super early breakfast helping us survive the coming day. It was such a precious and interesting experience to eat at such a weird time with the whole outside world in darkness. Every evening, around 5:46 to 5:47, people start to play recorded prayers on the street reminding people that “buka buasa” has come, which means breaking the fast. After going through the whole day with hanger and thirst, I start to appreciate whatever food that is given to me. My heart is filled with happiness and peace brought by God’s mercy and generosity even though I am not a Muslim. Ayu prays five times a day, before which she will clean herself  and dress up. The way she prays is so aesthetic, full of peace. Each day, I am surrounded by an atmosphere that is of faith, mercy and spirituality. I come to appreciate the beauty and power of spirituality.

Each time after “Sahur”, Maria leads us to do Yoga on the rooftop. Under the night sky and with the prayer sound on the street, I come to feel the inner peace even though I sweat so hard doing the complex gestures. In that situation, I start to think a lot about my life and my future. I love the peace and silence when I get to speak to God in my heart.

So far, there has been numerous magical coincidences in the past two weeks, which Maria calls the “big magics”. In one instance, one night Maria and I just talked about our ideas of traveling and living outside of our comfort zones; then the next day we went to an art museum which has exactly the same  theme of display that we discussed about. None of us knew its theme before we went. It’s an exhibition by an artist whose name is Douglas Diaz, titled “Shukke” which means to “leave home” or to “leave one’s comfort zone” in Japanese. It was an enlightening show with lots of thought-provoking and amazingly interesting ideas. Anyways, there were so much more magical coincidences and new experiences that have convinced me that this place has chosen me. A sense of mission has filled me with enthusiasm and anticipation for more that’s coming.

Love

The kids have taught me more things than I did to them. They has shown me how to care, to love, to respect and to be confident. Each time before class starts and after class ends, they will come to me one by one, use their foreheads to touch the back of my right hand, and say hi to me. Even the smallest ones or the most mischievous ones respect me as a teacher and someone older. I was surprised by their openness and outgoingness. Playing with them or just simply watching them play softens my heart. Their fearless laugh always reminds me of the simplest joy I can have in this world.18987756_1807839536211696_812976103_o

So far, I organized two special activities with them. One was learning the “cup song”, the other one was the Chinese paper-cut. The most amazing part was that even though the outcome usually wasn’t what I expected, they created their own ways of playing and had so much fun together. For example, the Chinese paper-cut event ended up with a fight of paper scraps.

Having no prior teaching experience, these two weeks of teaching has been an adventure for me. I was amazed by how fast they learned new things, and sometimes disappointed with myself when I couldn’t keep them focused. They have taught me how to be confident and comfortable with the class, and that the first step to have them trust in me is to have myself confident with what I am teaching.

Another thing that I feel so blessed with is how much love and care I received from the people in my center. Although it has been only two weeks, I feel like I’ve been knowing them for a long time. We shared so much meaningful memories and had so many interesting conversations over travel, work and marriage. I learned from Ayu and Maria what strong women should look like. They are among the most amazing women I know, who are tough, caring, hard-working and independent. The way they care for  me and the kids in the center has taught me what it means to give and to love.

It’s unbelievable how overwhelmed I am with all these new experiences and lessons in just two weeks. Things I have seen and learned in such a short time have been proving to me that I have made the right decision to come here. I’m looking forward to more stories that I’m going to make with these wonderful people.

By: Rebecca Cai

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Journey

This is my last week in Jakarta Center. A month passed so quickly that I didn’t even realize how much Indonesian I have become. This last week witnesses the most noticeable event of the year – Ramadan. And not only Muslims but also foreign volunteers like us do fasting. What a big challenge!

After the first day, we could not believe that we really made it – no eating and drinking for the whole day. But the moment we broke fasting (ate when the Sun goes down), I suddenly realized the meaning of Ramadan. It makes people value their food more, think about others more and be willing to share.

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The next days are not much difficult for us. We only follow the schedule: prepare sahur (breakfast) at 3:30 am, then break fasting (have dinner) at 6 pm during which there is no food or water.

However, what I remember the most afterwards will not be Ramadan, but how one of our student has positively changed. It was an English class as usual. After the Pass-It-On Ceremony, we tried to help kids review what they have learned by interesting activities. And with that class, Maria and I decided to let them play imitation game in which each kid was shown a word or even a sentence, then asked to demonstrate the word only by gestures so that other classmates could guess. At first, a very shy girl could not even illustrate very simple words because she felt embarrassed in front of the 10-student class. However, Maria then decided to give her a more difficult one – “crazy” and asked her to describe. Despite our encouragement, she stood still in front of class for almost ten minutes without doing anything until Maria threatened not to let other students go home until she finished her acting. The little girl then tried to describe the word by lively acts, and luckily one student made a good guess and the shy girl was released to her seat. At the end of the class, Maria announced to give the final sentence which according to her, would be very hard, so she needed a volunteer. And what really struck us was that that little shy girl did volunteer to stand in front of the class and gesture!

 

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We were all taken aback by her confidence but also very happy. It seems insignificant, yet this may change her life later on; and it is such an honour that we somehow play a part in it. There is no need for me to talk more about the noble cause that IHF is following – education. I just want to express my deepest gratitude to my team in IHF and especially the students who have taught me the value of my work.

I would like to use a quote by Mother Theresa as a way to conclude my journey: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I do really hope that those who are dedicating yourself to voluntary work always feel proud of what you are doing and giving to the world.

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Sincerely,

Nguyen Minh

More to wait

It all started in a very unfortunate way. I was supposed to be present in the Jakarta center by 4:30 pm; however, due to several problems at the airport, I did not get there until 10:30pm.

Nevertheless, once at the Center, the co-director as well as other volunteers were so welcoming that I almost forgot what I had experienced.  The food cooked by the house mother is awesome since it is not as spicy as rumored.  I have tried some restaurants here in Jakarta, but the food at the center is still what I adore the most.  Besides, I also have my own room which is quite simple, but really tidy and accommodating. The neighbors are very friendly too, they greet us whenever we meet.

However, it is the students that make the greatest impression on me. I used to work for a local organization in my country where I taught orphans aged 5-15 and organize some educational activities on the weekends for them, so handling naughty and noisy kids is what I expected beforehand. Yet, what strikes me is the fact that the children here demonstrate a great attitude towards learning and respect towards the teachers.  They can be noisy sometimes, they may initially resist doing the exercises that they consider difficult, but in the end they do their best to finish their assignments, which was a total surprise and I appreciate it.

Just within the first week, I had a chance to attend several classes, both English and Math and organized an art class for weekly special activity held on Friday in which students learnt how to make a DIY flower for Mother’s day (the first Sunday of May). After hearing about the special activity, kids all appeared very excited and over twenty of them stayed after class and joined me. Sad thing it turned out too difficult for little kids to make a rose as instructed, so I thought they would all give up and just go home. But I was really taken aback by their great efforts to finish the tasks, just as they do on their classes. Some of the students even cried when they could not fold the paper as beautifully as they wished, some of them stayed quite late to decorate their work so that they could present it to their mom who was waiting outside. Some of the girls even stayed to clean the mess that we created.

Half a week have passed by with a lot of surprises and challenges. I am now really excited about what is going to happen in the following weeks. This few days have not only reached my expectations but it has even gone beyond what I imagined this experience would be. As challenging as it might get, this experience will absolutely be very fascinating and rewarding.

Nguyen Minh, from Vietnam

My year with IHF

Written by Annisa, local volunteer, Bali

When I got a job and moved to Buitan last year, I decided to volunteer with an organization near my workplace. When I applied, I thought I would just do it to kill the time after work. But that changed. After almost a year at IHF Bali Centre, this is what I learnt as a local volunteer teaching computer class:

  1. Share whatever you know, even a little bit. I thought I would teach English as this was the only skill I have that I thought I could share. When Alice, the Bali Co-Director at that time, told me that they didn’t have computer teacher, I doubted that I could be one. My IT skills were limited to what I used in college 5 years ago – mostly writing essays in Word. I didn’t even have a personal computer for a few years after graduation. But IHF gave me a chance to teach things that I thought everyone basically could do – very basic computer skill, basic translation, and how to ride scooter as many other volunteers did not know how (this also needs a lesson plan). So you don’t have to be genius or be super talented to contribute. When my senior students, whom at the beginning couldn’t switch on a laptop, could finally make presentation with PowerPoint, I felt like a superstar.20160820_151135
  1. Being grateful for what I have. I grew up in a small city where infrastructure and facilities were pretty much available. But when I came to volunteer here in Bali, I realized that there was a gap of education quality in comparison to where I grew up – a city in Java. Education was of better quality, and there were more options of what we could study at school. This is a reminder for me, for those who read this and I hope also for the government, to make it equal in the cities and villages throughout Indonesia.  If I never volunteered with IHF and experienced this gap myself – the reality that the kids here didn’t have the same privileges – I might not care about this issue so seriously.20160319_135954
  1. The main reason why I kept coming till the end of my stay in Buitan because being an adult all the time is boring but getting loose with the kids is fun. Being an adult means we have to be mature and serious in the things that we do (study, work, and our relationships). I can’t do certain things because it will make me look childish. When I hang out with the kids, it is one of the only the time I can be silly and be me: play chase and run (the kids will help you burn calories) then scream while getting caught, act as a vegetable or goat, transform trash into toys, and discuss imaginary situations rather than thoughtful problems that sometimes be exhausting. I don’t think of reputation or image the way some adults do. I like how children don’t care about winning or losing in a game. You are special if you are teaseable and willing to be part of the game. The children only care if what you do can create a lot of laugh or not.  Something that rarely exist in adult world where the goal of a competition is to win regardless if you enjoy it or not. Kids also never overanalyze things. For example, once we had chips and ice cream. They just eat them together because they want to know if it taste good or not. An adult will analyze first if the taste matched or not, and if they’ve been told that it doesn’t taste good, many of then will believe it without even trying.20161203_145236
  1. In IHF you can meet amazing adults too. I am amazed to see their dedication of time, money, and energy to help kids in a foreign country – kids that cannot even speak their language and have different customs than their own. They said they are looking for experience. Then, I admire them more for choosing the experience which benefit others. It’s inspiring and motivating to hear their purpose to help others. My biggest appreciation are for the co-directors who work very hard to run the centre and take care of us – volunteers and kids. Because it is an international organization, it means people are coming from different part of the world. This sounds cliche, but It always nice to learn about other people’s habits and culture (the good and bad).20160213_144715
  1. Money isn’t the only reward for work. What I get from volunteering in IHF is nothing material. Beside the superstar feeling which I felt sometimes, I received a lot of love here. It is natural, not pretentious. If the kids love you, they really do. When you leave, the love will fade. They love you as you are during the time they spend with you – not as an idea or memory. For me, that is a real kind of love.20161203_130800

I know people are talking about volunteering to make a difference. To be honest, my time in IHF probably made more of a difference in my life than the kids’.

Creating memories with IHF Nakuru

Written by: Ayano Ogura, Voluntourist, Nakuru

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I was excited and a little bit nervous as my car pulled in through the gates of IHF Nakuru’s centre. I was visiting for a few days so that I can meet Chepanga, a girl whom I have been sponsoring through IHF’s sponsorship program since 2011. Every month IHF sends me an email with two photos -one picture of Chepanga’s hand written letter, and one picture of her holding the letter. Chepanga and I have been writing back and forth in this way as pen pals for five years. She always wrote to me about her studies, her friends, her Pokot village, and we always talked about how I should visit Kenya someday… but I never thought it would become a reality until this year. As I saw Chepanga’s familiar face in the crowd of curious, smiling kids, I instantly felt at ease.
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There is something about IHF’s children that is so very special. They have a strong bond with each other, and they welcomed me into their home like family. They are friendly, funny, strong, talented, independent and I fell in love with all of them immediately.

Time in Nakuru moved so much more slowly compared to my busy life in Los Angeles where I worry about work deadlines and traffic. I got to wake up to birds chirping every morning. I would go fetch some water from the water tank in a bucket to wash my face, drink hot Kenyan milk tea for breakfast and do some cleaning. Then I would hang out with the kids, read a book, teach some kids how to make friendship bracelets, walk around the green fields under the big clear sky and watch the kids play soccer/football. The kids, especially the boys, are so passionate about football and I loved watching them play every single day in the evenings. They play in any condition, rain or shine, shoes or no shoes, after chores or after exams. They are also so good at singing and dancing too!

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Of course it’s not all play, and the Co-Director Joyce and work-study volunteer Annie as well as the other staff were doing a great job of keeping the center running as smoothly as possible. I can tell the staff really care about the children and do their best even in the most chaotic and stressful situations.

My impression of life in Kenya seemed to be at the same time simpler and more complicated than the life I grew up knowing. The children here don’t have much in terms of material belongings and they focus on the simple pleasures in life, like eating, studying, playing, and sleeping. However, based on the stories I heard and what I saw during my brief stay, there are many challenges, as with any developing country. Persisting poverty and slums with hungry children begging for money, limited education and some teachers beating students, businessmen constantly ripping off foreigners/volunteers, riots and murders over political differences and girls being forced into arranged marriages at a very young age.

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I am so thankful to IHF for giving me a glimpse into what life is like in Kenya. I had the same valuable experience when I volunteered at the IHF Jakarta center back in 2008 and 2012, but I always feel like the kids ended up teaching me much more about myself and the world than I was able to teach them. I really believe in IHF’s mission of “Pass It On,” and believe learning about each other and sharing our different experiences will make all of us better global citizens. Even though I miss the kids a lot, I know I’ll keep in touch with many of them in the years to come!

Capturing moments 2016: Medan

By Aditi, Co- Director, Medan.

As we are coming close to the end of this year, we can’t help but reflect on all that has happened through the year at our education center; different workshops, special activities, classes, exams, graduation ceremonies, different festivals celebrated in togetherness, our housemother giving birth to a baby girl and not to forget the numerous smiles and laughter of children and teachers that truly make this year a memorable one.20161219_142452.jpgAs it is believed, the purpose of education is to help the children pick up the skills that they would require in their future lives; we hope that every year spent at Medan center adds value to their lives and helps them to grow into individuals who can help themselves and others around them. The skills and learning that they draw from the regular classes of Math, English, Computers, the exposure they get by being introduced to different topics and discussions held at the center, the opportunity to develop skills and explore their interests by participating in the various workshops that are being held, the values and knowledge that the children gain from by interacting with volunteers with different backgrounds and culture are all an attempt towards fulfilling the same purpose of education.20160609_145718As we complete another year, we also realize the significant role each teacher of our center played in making each day a success; with their assistance in running classes effectively, helping in organizing different events and activities at the center and most importantly working towards making their classes meaningful for the children. Most of these teachers are University students who are currently pursuing their studies in a subject of their choice. They are taking out time from their schedule to teach children at our center -some of them like teaching and some of them want to gain an experience in working but all of them do make a difference in the lives of the children. 20160609_153556It’s the beginning of Christmas celebrations at Medan center this week, we started organizing another set of special activities for the children and would continue organizing different activities throughout this week. Children have been making snowflakes’ and snowman cut outs; colouring and putting them around our center. They have also been busy making posters of their choice to decorate the center. There are colorful butterflies, characters from the animation movies along with the Christmas tree, ready to be put around the center adding more colour to the center and bringing a good close to the year!

Peace Out, Indonesia

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta.

I now depart Indonesia after 308 days of living here.  It’s been exactly 44 weeks of highs and lows, 10 months of ups and downs.  And it’s time to say goodbye.  To be perfectly honest, I’m ready to go but I cannot leave without acknowledging all the good that has been Indonesia for me.

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me-7-eleven-managerA big part of the good was made up of some really, really nice people.  Starting close to home, there was the 7-Eleven crew.  For months, I went there to get my coffee at least 5 mornings every week, and whoever was on duty greeted me with a smile and sometimes a cheery “Pagi!” (good morning).  My food purveyors have also been good to me, like the fruit cart where I bought whatever they were selling.  I know that they overcharged me but it was so little money when I thought about it that I accepted their price, whatever they told me.  The boys who usually man the cart were unfailingly polite and respectful to me, patiently helping me with my words when I had trouble communicating, and laughing with me when I said something stupid (yes, they were laughing at me sometimes but they did it in a nice way).  The mie aceh guy and the ayam bakar guy were also good to me, getting to know my order even before I could speak, and always serving me with a joke (mie aceh guy) and a smile (ayam bakar guy).

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My neighbourhood transportation experts must also be acknowledged.  All the Go-Jek guys who unfailingly shouted, “Hallo, meeeeees!” and waved when I walked by, and the Bluebird taxi crew who greeted me with, “Hallo, Krrrreeeeeestin, how are you today?” whenever they saw me.  They brought me little moments of pleasure, even when it was just a chuckle.

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Some of our local volunteers here have stood out to me because of their kindness and generosity of spirit.  Addina, who took me to her friend’s wedding; Nancy, who took me for nights on the town; Siti, who invited me to her home to eat with her family and meet her students and neighbours; and Sofwah, who let me ask her anything and answered it all so wonderfully.

Indonesia has restored my faith in the goodness of humanity, and it has given me profound experiences.  I have seen and done things here that never previously entered my realm of possibility to experience.  I have sat (or hung off a mountain) and watched erupting volcanoes, visited an island within an island, and meandered around ancient temples.  Indonesia has been a gateway to making lifetime memories in other Southeast Asian countries – Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos.

night-out-with-nancyIn Indonesia, I have had to confront the issue of colour and decide on how I should handle it; this was something I never had to deal with before and now I’m more prepared to deal with it in the future.  In Indonesia, I learned that I can adapt even to the point of learning another language, maybe not to expert proficiency but at least enough to get by in daily life.

Indonesia, being here has helped to expand my heart, and for that I say thank you.  I don’t know if I shall pass this way again but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that it was very nice knowing you.

Peace out.

Just Pass It On!

Written by Agata, Co-Director, Bali

The day started extremely busy. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We wanted to make sure that everything would be ready before the kids show up. We set up the tables and cleaned up the floor, checked the certificates and the prizes just to make sure that we would have enough for everyone. Today no kid could leave the center empty-handed. This day was supposed to be a celebration of their hard work, and after this semester they all deserved a prize. We were just in the middle of setting up the balloons when the first little guests showed up. A few kids from SD4 decided to come earlier to check on us. When they saw the balloons it became clear to us that they are not leaving the center anytime soon. But they were a great help, not saving their lungs and hands to help us with inflating the balloons and hanging them around the center.

SD6 kids made their entrance around 11:30 am. As usual, their presence was associated with pranks and trouble, so we have tried to occupy them with a few youtube videos just to buy us enough time to prepare some snacks. As you can read: we were prepared for all the circumstances! By 12:30 pm, the center was already filled with kids, but we were all set and prepared. Even weather (rain, rain, and rain!) strangely worked in our favor gathering everybody inside. At 13:00 sharp, we started the fun part of the day!

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Firstly, we handed out the prizes. Starting from SD1, we asked each class to step forward. We honored the children who had the best scores on their exams. Then we handed out the small gifts for the rest of the students. After the official part, the games were on! Among others, our students sang, ate crackers without using their hands and pretended to be different kinds of animals. At the same time, some of them were discovering their manual talents making friendship bracelets.

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Later, we continued our celebrations with snacks and drinks. After all, we all deserved a little treat. Finally, our Juniors students came up with an idea to record our version of the Mannequin Challenge with the kids that were still at the center! It was incredible to watch their commitment to getting it right: we had to take several takes and guess what… The volunteers wanted to quit after the second, but the students didn’t let us rest till we had the best video possible.

That was a day filled with laughter and fun! Our kids were very happy at the end of the day. And the volunteers? Well, they say that a picture says more than a thousand words, so:

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My trip to Egerton Castle

Written by Annie, Work Study, Nakuru

This past week I visited Egerton castle with Timothy, one of the kids from the center. The castle was built by English Lord, Maurice Egerton for his mistress during the years prior to Kenya’s independence from England. Lord Maurice Egerton was in love with a girl back in England. He proposed to her yet the girl refused, stating that she have to live in a castle. Lord Egerton thus built a castle for her. However the girl has already married someone else by the time the castle was finished.

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Though with a sad story behind, Egerton castle now is a perfect place for group outing and events. It’s around 30 minutes’ Matatu (10-seat public transportation in Kenya) ride from our center in Nakuru. Once we got there, there was a tour guide who welcomed us and showed us around the 52 rooms in the castle. There were also some interesting exhibitions inside about the history of Kenya and other topics. Our trip took place on Thursday so it was not crowded at all. In fact we were the only four people in the castle. Our guide gave us a very detailed tour. At the end the tour, we also went to see the two lamas imported from South Africa. Outside the castle we’ve met group of children playing football at the field.

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After the tour, we went to a local restaurant in Nakuru town for lunch since we already missed the lunch time at our center. Timothy was very happy and told me about the last time a volunteer took him out to eat, which was one year ago. While eating out is like a routine for kids in western families, here for them it’s something really special. I was glad to see the happiness on his face and also a little bit sad, realizing how easy it is to make a kid’s day really special here. It made me appreciate what I have.

In The Shadow Of A Volcano

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

I was sick on my second night at Lake Toba and still can’t say exactly what was wrong.  I put it down to that dodgy pork I ate for lunch that afternoon.  It didn’t seem dodgy at the time, but in retrospect, I think that must have been it.  All night, my body ached and I couldn’t get into a comfortable position.  The bed and pillows that were like cloud 9 the night before were now like a torture chamber.  I woke up the next morning feeling exhausted and sick-ish without being able to pinpoint exactly what I was feeling.  Eventually I threw up a little and felt a little better, so I went to breakfast and had some fruit, then I was off.
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We were returning to mainland Sumatra so we got back on the car ferry.  However, this time, since I was feeling poorly and dying to sleep, I dozed in the back seat of the car for the 1 hour trip.  Once we got back to Parapet on the mainland, we headed the car in the direction of Berastagi.  We would be driving for most of the day, stopping to see different sights along the way.  At every stop, I felt well enough to get out of the car and snap some photos but I just wasn’t feeling the energy of the previous days.As we drove, the gorgeous views that I had seen on Samosir island continued on Sumatra.  We passed fields and beautiful lake views, and even in the late morning when we stopped at a restaurant for a cup of real ginger tea, the Lake was still with us.While I sipped my really strong ginger tea in the restaurant, I unintentionally eavesdropped on a conversation at a nearby table.  A man who seemed to be a tour guide was telling his clients that the evening before, he was washing his car and twice it got covered in volcanic ash from the continuously erupting Gunung Sinabung, 1 of the 2 volcanoes that looms over Berastagi.  We were heading right towards that and even in my slightly out-of-it state, I was excited to get closer to the volcano.

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But first, we made a quick stop at a king’s palace of some sort.  It was really a small village and a king used to live there with his 12 wives and his security guards.  My driver tried his best to explain it all but I didn’t really get it.  Google Translate helped a little but not much.  I spent about 20 minutes wandering around, including  going up into the wives’ house, which was a large, dark and creepy traditional Batak house.  They all used to live there together and I couldn’t get from anyone if they managed to do it in peace.  Maybe they did.  Whatever, I didn’t really care enough at that point to pursue the line of questioning too much.

Our next stop was a waterfall.  I planned to get a dip under the falls.  But I was feeling kind of weak and not at all prepared to tackle the million steps going down to the waterfall.  So instead I just took a few pictures.We continued our drive and finally made it to Berastagi in the late afternoon.  The entire town was grey and at first I thought how dirty it was but then my driver told me that it was layers of volcanic ash, and I remembered what the man in the restaurant had said about washing his car the night before.

view-of-sumatra-from-samosir

Finally, we got to my hotel, where I spent a good 30 minutes searching my room for the air conditioner remote so I could turn it off because it was so cold.  Eventually, I gave up and called the front desk to ask them how to turn it off and they informed me that there were no AC units in the hotel, it was all fresh mountain air.  I laughed and said thanks, had a steaming hot shower, snuggled under the covers and once again knocked out early.

I hadn’t felt well all day but I still had a pretty good day.  They views had made it all worth getting out of bed that morning.