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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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.

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.

STRUGGLES OF KENYAN EDUCATION

Written by Joyce, Co-Director, Nakuru

Last week I spent most of my time visiting primary schools, and it wasn’t the first time I went to schools our kids enrolled in. Most of my visits are because of school fees.

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Primary education in Kenya is supposed to be free and all of the text books are provided by school. It sounds very promising, and in favor of children who are from less privileged background. However, education for these children is far from free. Children are asked to pay tuition, to donate money for school to buy footballs, to compensate teachers’ tea expenses ( teachers claim that they come school very early in order to tutor kids to better prepare for coming national exams so they need to be compensated morning tea), to buy text books, and to pay for school desks. Everyday kids get beaten for different reasons. I refused to give children in primary school tuition that I know will go into the pockets of their teachers and not to the students education. I went to school every time a child told me that they had been beaten at school for not paying school fees. When I asked what the tuition is for, teachers will respond that it is not required but it’s good that if children could pay as they work day and night for these kids.

IMG_6406.JPGYou will never be able to imagine how abusive the words from these teachers and principals as educators are to the children. I understand that these teachers, as educated adults, do not get paid a fair amount for their work, but it is not the innocent kids that should pay for this unfairness. Children are quite used to be beaten. When talked about it they act like it’s no big deal, this is the most depressing part. As a result, kids grow up with an ideology that it is okay to beat someone if she/ he makes a mistakes.  Sometimes I think the children would be better off staying home with qualified teachers we hired ourselves. However, at this moment, it is not financially and legally feasible. What is the solution?IMG_6540.JPG

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

OUR LITTLE ORGANIC PROJECT

Written by: Soufian, Co-Director, Chiang Rai

Here I’m again, a lonesome Moroccan at the Chiang Rai Center with two children and a frustratingly slow traveler PC. Two kids left the center for vacations and the other two are working full time, staying outside the center. Moreover, this week the housemother left, she moved to another place and found another job. From now on I have to share the center duties just with the children. So now that they are gone for two weeks, I’ll have to take a good care of the center, especially the garden that we started together.

firstAt first, we wanted to plant a small garden in our yard, but the problem is that the ground there doesn’t get a lot of sun as the tree leaves block the sunshine most of the day. As a solution, the children suggested another place with more sunshine and as it turned out more land to grow vegetables. We got to work. Nupon was great at cutting the plants while Arisa and I collected them. We didn’t have all the necessary gardening tools, so we used what we were able to find at the center. Soon the land was ready.

The goals of this project were to show our children how to grow vegetables and take care of the garden as part of the house maintenance, as well as supplying us with some fresh and organic fruit and veggies.

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This week we had also new board members visiting us to meet the children and talk about IHF at the family dinner. They didn’t speak English, but Pratya helped us communicate and translated what we said. I was glad to be part of this experience. They seemed very friendly and shared their experience in working with local organizations with us. Hopefully they will take care of this place and contribute to children’s education the same way IHF was doing for a long time in Chiang Rai.

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Why Our Kids Love Chapati

Written by Isabel, Co-Director, Nakuru.

My name is Isabel and I work as a Co-Director at the Nakuru Center. I have been working for IHF for the last 8 months and I have come to learn a lot from the kids here.

I will try to share what the kids taught me about the thing they love the most –  Chapati. Chapati is a form of a pancake or a flatbread and the kids here have a thing for the wheat. They love Chapatis so much they can basically drop anything if the possibility to make them appears.

first-photo In Kenya chapati usually goes well with a beef stew, beans, green grams or a potato stew. The children always volunteer to make the chapatis for themselves because they know that it gives them the opportunity to have a few bites here and there during the preparation. Maybe it is a little bit cheeky but I guess kids will always be kids! They know how to divide themselves into different groups and share responsibilities among them, since making chapatis can be a lot of work. There are those who make and mix the dough. There are those who roll the dough into pancake shapes. There are also those who fry it with small pinch of oil on the pans. And finally, there are those who pack the made chapatis into awaiting bags. Our chapatis are always made from different ingredients –  eggs, milk, salt, sugar, wheat, grated carrots or lemons… Some put spices and others put food colour to add some beauty to their meal. It all depends on your preferences and capability to buy certain ingredients. You can also make them very simple by using wheat and water. I have come to learn that kids enjoy chapatis not only because of it’s flavour, but also because they are really filling and keep them full for a long time.

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Still a very important thing is that chapatis are very tasty and one can be creative enough to make from them different delicious sandwiches with anything from fruits to chicken. Sometimes the kids buy already prepared chapatis from the canteens and make sandwiches out of them. They later eat them as a night or a morning snack. I am always looking forward to these days when we make them by ourselves as they are one of the most fun days at the Nakuru Centre.