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!


Moving ahead. Together!

Written by Aditi, Co-Director, Medan

The week began on a good note with a birthday celebration of one of our co-directors! A small surprise was planned for him; we cut the cake and had a good laugh together.

During the week, Mehdi, another co-director at the center organized a stress management session for the children.  We took the children to an open field and began the session with games to physically tire them. The games were thoroughly enjoyed by them. All the co-directors and teachers had fun too.


Later, we started with a discussion on what is stress and what are the different ways to handle it. We also discussed the difference between good and bad stress. The children were made comfortable and it was heartening to see that they were open to talk about the triggers that lead to stress and anxiety and the techniques they use to reduce it. Together, we shared some ideas on ways to deal with stress, along with a breathing exercise that helps to calm oneself immediately. Overall, the session went well as the children seemed to be satisfied with the discussions and shared their feelings openly. We hope to continue and organize more of these sessions in the future.

At the center, we have also started making preparations for the upcoming Midterm Exams. Exam schedules have been prepared and children and parents are being informed about the dates. Also, we will be starting preparations for the ‘Pass it On’ ceremony in the coming weeks. The ceremony is a time to appreciate the efforts the children and teachers have put throughout the semester. The ceremonies in the past have been a success and we hope it would be the same this time as well!

Hiking trip to Sibayak

Written by Mehdi, Co-Director, Medan

Last weekend me and Letizia, the other co-director, went for a hiking trip on mount Sibayak and it was an unforgettable experience, to say the least!


We left Medan around 4pm and found ourselves stuck in traffic for about two hours. After a long journey crammed inside a very compact minibus we arrived at the entrance of the park, ready to take on the mountain. Since it was already dark we couldn’t see much of the nature around us. All we could see was the concrete path that would take us to the top and we had no idea how long the trekking would take (estimates by our Indonesian friends ranged from “30 minutes” to “4 hours”). After about 45 minutes of walking we reached a small outpost. Apparently we were already halfway to the top!
The weather was gradually getting cold and windy and in addition to that it was starting to rain. By the time we reached our camping spot we were all incredibly cold and wet. We couldn’t see much of the place, except that it was very rocky. We could also hear some geysers in the distance, spouting hot steam. When we finally found a place (relatively) suitable for camping, we started setting up the tent. This was quite a challenge as we were operating completely in the dark, with only a few flashlights to guide us. The wind was also getting stronger, making it difficult to keep the tent on the ground while we tried to tie it down.
When the tent was finally set up we all just jumped inside, trembling from head to toe and completely wet. We were so desperate for some warmth that we decided to light our little gas fire inside the tent. A risky move, but at least we got to warm our hands a bit! Well-prepared as we were, we had no cards or any other games to keep ourselves occupied with so we went to sleep quite early, hoping we’d be able to get up early in the morning to explore the area. Unfortunately none of us managed to get any sleep whatsoever. We spent the entire night snuggling together just to get a little bit warmer and cursing the gods every time our tent’s covering sail blew away, exposing us to violent winds and rain. I believe it was one of the longest nights I’ve ever experienced in my life.

We “woke up” around 6:30, exhausted, cold and in a very bad mood. I decided to get out of the tent to get a look of our surroundings and I was amazed by the beauty of the place. It was rocky, as expected but there was a very jurassic feel to the place. The geysers looked dangerous and the sharp cliffs around us looked intimidating. In the distance you could see the immense volcano, Mount Berastagi. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to stay longer so soon we found ourselves hiking down the trail again. But this time we could actually see where we were going and the path took us through rocky mountains and lush jungles.

It was all incredibly beautiful and almost made the suffering worth it. Almost.

A Visit to Lake Toba

Written by Mehdi, Co-Director, Medan

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!

The beginning…

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!

My life in Medan as a voluntourist!

By: Wenwen, Voluntourist Medan

This is not the first time I choose to be a voluntourist with IHF, the first one was three years ago when I went to the Bali centre in Indonesia. And it was during that time when I made my mind that I would explore the other places as a voluntourist. So this year I came to Medan, where I met three other nice volunteers who made me wanting to stay here for a much longer time.

On the first day I arrived at the Medan centre with my friend Ling we were invited to attend a local wedding ceremony, which was really impressive. We were really interested in experiencing Indonesian culture. The bride and groom wore traditional attires and took pictures with all the guests invited. The person who invited us introduced the wedding customs to us as well as shared some traditional food with us.


During our stay at the Medan centre, we got to know many volunteers. Besides co-directors: Teresa, Leti and Tony who are from different countries with different backgrounds, we still met many other local volunteers. The co-directors arranged the meeting with them for us. when we had dinner together, we just couldn’t stop talking about our country, culture and education system. One of interesting things I find here is that most of the people here are Muslims. They have totally different dressing code and religious beliefs than we and we respect that.

During the weekdays, Ling and I are helping tutoring the classes. The teachers here are all very caring and supportive, and sometimes let us get very involved in their classroom activities. Surprisingly, some children said they are very interested in learning some Mandarin, so Ling and I gave them a few Mandarin language sessions as a part of special activities. This week, we are going to do a presentation to introduce the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival to them. We really enjoy spending time with the children here.

img_2308During the weekend, we visited many tourist attractions with other volunteers, including, the big mosque, the temple, the waterfall and the Lake Toba. It really gave us a chance to get close to the nature. Compared to the life in my own country,  life here seems to be more relaxed and meaningful.

Taking a Break in Penang!

By:  Letizia, Co-Director Medan

Last week in Medan was quite nice and quiet, like usual, however I didin’t see so much of what happened in Medan because I was on my long weekend in Penang, Malaysia!  IMG_20160801_134620The kids at the center celebrated the birthday of one of our SMA students, Atin, with a giant Jack fruit and a lot of fun for everybody… Unfortunately I wasn’t there to party with them, but I saw the pictures and it looked like a lot of fun!I would like to share about Penang Island, it is a very nice place to visit with a lot of jungle and interesting travelers passing through.  Living in Medan is nice because, even if the city doesn’t have amazing things like Bali does, we are very close to many beautiful areas and is not so expensive to go to visit them.
In Penang I spent my days in a nice and quiet hostel in George Town, an ex-colonial city with a lot of history and culture along its roads.  The Indian neighborhood is very nice, called Little India and marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the colors, sounds, and smells take you directly to that magical and fantastic country.

Outside the city there are many beaches and national parks that let the visitor enjoy a more natural and relaxing atmosphere.  I highly suggest the national park near Teluk Behang village, with its nice trekking walk through the jungle and close to the sea.


Recruitment and a Trip to Bukit Lawang

By:  Letizia, Co-Director, Medan

This last week at the center has been very quiet, but also fun!  The Ramadan holiday was not yet finished, but some students had already started coming back to the center for lessons.  The classes are not full yet, so we have started doing recruitment around the neighborhood.  We promoted the free classes at the center and let all the families know that their children have the opportunity to come to our classes to learn English, math, and computer skills.  It impressed me how many people were shocked to find that our school is free and open to everybody!  They were so enthusiastic!  This is very important, especially for the younger children, who can come to the center at an early age and have a head start gaining confidence with the language.

Another exciting thing is that we are starting to re-organize the center with many new ideas.  We have arranged a new room for co-directors and volunteers, which is not too big but very nice and has a balcony!  We are also starting also to update the archives and IMG_20160717_142808putting all our data online so we will have a more complete idea of all the students that are attending our classes and the progress of the school in general.

I have to admit though, that the most beautiful part of the week was the weekend.  Medan city is a very big and interesting city, but sometimes it makes you want to stay in a quiet and green place, discovering the wonderful Indonesian nature.  Luckily we are very close to many parks and places of a high nature interest.  One of those is the Bukit Lawang Park, where you can find opportunities for trekking and see the orangutan in their natural habitat.

This park is amazing, in the heart of the jungle but also very nice and served with all the touristic comforts.  We didn’t have the time to make an excursion to see the orangutan, but we spent all day close to the river, enjoying nature and relaxing, and getting ready for the new week ahead!
Medan and the places nearby are a continuous discovery!


Four Days in Singapore

By:  Teresa, Co-Director Medan

Last week I was able to take my four-day break, and I went to Singapore!  One of our local volunteers, Jeni, came with me and we had a great time.  Buddha Tooth Relic TempleWe stayed at a little hotel in the center of Chinatown, next to some excellent Chinese restaurants.  We were also conveniently located near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is a Buddhist temple and museum, housing one of Buddha’s teeth.

Teresa & Jeni



Our big night out was dinner at the Sky on 57 restaurant, at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. We dressed in our best, and pretended like we belonged there, amongst the other wealthy customers (while stealthily trying to order only the cheapest items on the menu).  The view was amazing, and definitely worth it.  Nothing beats having a meal at 57 stories high!

Speaking of heights, we also took a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which is a giant Farris wheel.  It provided some beautiful views of the city.  I was surprised at how slowly it moved, creeping alongView of Singapore at night at 30 minutes per rotation.  It is quite dissimilar to the clunky Farris wheels from the county fairs back home! I also had the opportunity to satisfy my girly side, with some shopping at Bugis Village – a local-style market with lots of clothes, shoes, and jewelry.  I even found a great dress for only $4 USD!

I think my favorite activity was simply walking around the city at night.  For a person who normally doesn’t like cities, I was surprised to find Singapore very beautiful, especially at night.  The area we were in was very well laid-out for foot traffic, and exceptionally clean.  There were also many restaurants and shops, and it was very tourist-friendly. Since our time there was limited, there were still quite a few things that we did not get the chance to do, like visit Universal Studios.  I love roller coasters, so that just means that I will have to visit again!


Carnivals, Daredevils, & Dances!

By: Teresa, Co-Director IHF Medan

IMG_7717I am just beginning to explore some of the activities Medan has to offer. One fun activity I enjoyed this week was going to a small carnival that was set up near the center; they had cotton candy and rides – just like they would in the US. I went with our previous co-director, Lissa, and a large group of students from our junior and senior classes. It was hilarious watching everyone squeal and laugh while on the rides.

 IMG_7716At the carnival, there was also a motorcycle daredevil show. During the show, a rider rode around inside a giant barrel to the point where he was completely horizontal. The onlookers held out bills for him to grab as he went by. Lissa taunted him by pulling the money back just as he went to grab it. He retaliated by riding right up to the edge of the barrel, which put the bottom of his wheels less than a foot from our faces. In Indonesia, this event is called “tong setan”, which means “devil barrel”.  Lissa mentioned that it is called this due to the prevailing myth that for the riders to have such amazing abilities, they must be possessed by a demon. I encourage readers to search up “tong setan” on YouTube as it is pretty amazingIMG_7701 to witness!


In addition, this week, I was also very lucky to see a beautiful dance done by four of our junior class students. They wore lovely yellow outfits and used fans as props. The dance was a traditional Melayu dance – another amazing thing to see!Overall, this has been an exciting week and I am enjoying my time here in Medan.