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’.

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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.

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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.

Exploring Bali as a voluntourist

Written by: Eva, Voluntourist, Bali

My name is Eva, I’m a 53 years old teacher from Switzerland and I currently work at IHF Bali for four weeks as a voluntourist. When I arrived at the center, I was surprised that it’s located between a small Hindu and a small Muslim village. So every day I smell the smoke of the temple fire donations, and I hear the muezzin singing. I like that.

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After my first shock of my unfriendly bath and sleeping room, I was happy, that at least the kids have very nice classrooms with a nice view of the fields and the sea. And I’m also happy with our cook Sari – she is cooking very traditional food, mostly vegetarian, and although I like to eat meat and fish, every day I’m looking forward to her menu.

The teachers at the center work in similar ways as the teachers in Europe, supported by computers and wifi. That’s great – both are a part of the daily kid’s world. I’m teaching history and German in a Swiss High School, and I was a little bit nervous about my first team-teaching lesson. But it worked very well.

As a voluntourist, I love to explore Bali. I rented a motorbike, and the first trip I did was to Pura Besakih, the Indonesian „mother temple”. Driving through the landscape was so amazing and fantastic!

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During my second trip, I spent exited hours in Bali Aga Village in Tenganan, only ten minutes from IHF Bali Center. It’s a kind of museum village, where guests have to pay a donation for entrance. The village looks very traditional, and I was watching how the inhabitants prepare a wedding for the next day. The women rasp coconuts and make coconut soup; the men cut herbs and chili and slaughter pigs. I liked to watch it, even it was sometimes hard.

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On Saturday we had a special activity: Yoga! Me and the kids liked it a lot. On Sunday I was in Ubud, for rice terraces, culture, and River Rafting.

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.

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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!

My first days in Nakuru

written by: Robinson, Co-Director, Nakuru
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Today marks exactly one week that I have been at the IHF Nakuru Center, and the experience i have had is indeed amazing though there have been a few challenges along the way. I arrived to Nakuru from Nairobi on the 1st of November. Since it was my first visit in Nakuru I had to be picked up from the bus stop by Joyce and Eunice. I was excited about my decision to leave behind the hustle and bustle Nairobi and move to a destination that would be a more humble existence for me, but filled with well behaved and energetic kids.
The kids around here are really jovial, and welcoming. I am enjoying every moment of socialising with them. The boys love playing football and cards every evening. I always go to the pitch to watch them play.  The girls like to play “kati” (a game where they throw a tiny ball around). They usually play immediately after they eat breakfast.
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Unfortunately, I have arrived at IHF Nakuru Center when the kids are on holidays, so I haven’t been able to help much with their school work but I will still be here in January 2017 when the schools open, so I am looking forward to that experience. I am very impressed by the kids’ excellent command of English language.
The kids have big dreams for the future. Some of them want to be engineers, doctors or lawyers while others are still undecided. For my part, all I can do is to passionately appeal to them to work hard and be dedicated at school so they can achieve their dreams.

Kenya is beautiful and filled with wonderful, welcoming people. I, myself, am a Kenyan. The local staff and the directors at IHF Nakuru Center are fantastic people. The have been very helpful while I become adapted to my new position at the center.

Learning to Teach

Written by: Kari, Voluntourist, Bali

My volunteer position is unlike any other position for IHF. I was partnered with IHF through a program called Accounting for International Development, an organization based out of the UK that partners accountants with nonprofit organizations in developing countries. This means that I am working with IHF as more of a consultant rather than a volunteer teacher. I look at the behind the scenes side of how the organization runs. Even though my role is a little different, living and working at the Bali Center puts my right in the action with all the kids and other volunteers.

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We have a large dining table in the downstairs area of the main house at the Bali Center. This is where I sit, along with the other volunteers, to complete most of my work on my computer. I work with Clara, the Co-Director in charge of finance, on day to day finances, and I am also in constant contact with other Co-Directors at all the Centers, as well as, Arnau, the Executive Director. Each day starting at around noon the students begin to fill the center with the sounds of laughter, playing and if you listen carefully, evening the learning happening upstairs in the classroom. Since IHF is an organization based around helping support these student’s education, I also try to help out teaching whenever I am needed. To be honest working with the student is a nice break from the numbers and computer work.

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This past week I played substitute teacher for an SD 6 class at the Bali Center. Being an accountant, numbers are my specialty not grammar. Therefore, before teaching I had to review the lesson plan prepared for class to make sure I wasn’t going to teach the students anything incorrectly. I was a little nervous going into the class, but the students were welcoming, cheerful and helpful when I needed help explaining things in Bahasa. We reviewed adverbs for the week, and had a blast making up sentences with all the adverbs they had learned. It wasn’t long before the students and I were joking and playing throughout the lesson.

This week I was honored and excited that the students asked about me when their regular teacher was back to teaching their class. I poked my head into class to say hi, and was welcomed by many smiling faces and cheerful hellos! We sang a round of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as they seem to love when I do the actions that go along with the song. I am glad I got the opportunity while I am here to work with the students. My role here is removed from directly working with the kids, therefore, it was rewarding and heartwarming experience to be part of helping these students out. It may have only been a few days of teaching, but it helped to remind me just what IHF is all about, helping students have a brighter future.