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’.


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.


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.


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.

Life in Nakuru

By: Kenzo, Work Study Kenya

Although it feels as if I have been here for far longer, I arrived at the Nakuru centre just over a week ago. Now that I’ve settled into the swing of activities that happen at the centre and more generally in the Nakuru’s way of life, I can reflect on my experience here so far.

In many aspects the children at the centre live a life filled wih similar interests and aspirations I used to have when I was at school. All the children are now back at school, leaving the centre relatively quiet during the day and free for the herds of livestock which come to graze on the centre’s land. When the children return in the late afternoon and evening they studiously get on with their homework and revision, without complaint (This is different from what I used to do when I was at school :P).

Once they are at home, and all the work and revision is done,  many of the children relax by playing football (trust me, everyone are crazy about this sport here) or socializing with each other and staff.

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In spite of the interage group living and socializing at the centre there is a strong community spirit in which everyone is ready to pull their weight by doing different tasks for the centre, like buying supplies or cooking on the weekends.
Despitimg_1270e me being the only international volunteer here along with the amazing co-director Joyce, the proactive help from the children, and the local staff ensures the smooth running of the centre. Nevertheless, the weekends here can be a little bit chaotic as the children let off steam from a hard week of school and only settling in the evenings when we watch a movie. I have been trying to introduce them to some movie classics, like “The Shawshank Redemption”, but I fear many of them still favor the action and their superhero movies ( Can’t blame them for it, can we? )
However, there are some differences between my childhood and the childhood of children here. Having enjoyed a comparatively sheltered and a somewhat spoon-fed upbringing, it was only upon leaving the nest to go to university that I learned how to be independent. And even during my first week at the centre I had to be told how to: a) wash myself without running water; b) wash my clothes using a bucket; and c) navigate the country and town safely; along with countless other life hacks! In my defense, I was initially somewhat overwhelmed by all the new things during my first few days here in Kenya, this being my first time living in a developing country, especially in Africa . In contrast, all the children here have the maturity well beyond their years, and are able to live independently within the wider community.
I haven’t traveled extensively as of yet. I am looking forward to this experience, especially exploring the beautiful natural scenery and wildlife of Kenya, some of which we are lucky enough to wake up to every morning at the centre in Nakuru.

Kenya has already made quite an enormous impression on me, especially the children. I look forward to the rest of my time at the centre this month and with that knowledge I know, I will be reluctant to say goodbye at the end to my new friends here.

Discovering myself at IHF!

Blog post by Mengjie, WS Volunteer, Bali.

This is my second week at the IHF Bali center, I’m very happy that I made the decision of coming here. Even though we never knew each other, the kids gave me the best welcome I’ve ever had. They are so zealous and have enthusiastic! At first, I thought it would be hard for me to even remember their names, but now I am familiar with all the kids , their characteristics and fortes. Everything just happened naturally.     img_2810

The kids are always curious and passionate to learn something. They are naughty sometimes, but they do know when to stop. Most of times, they just do that to play with you. They have even took the role of being my teacher! They taught me two magic tricks and how to make a flower using tissue paper. I learned so much from them and the environment at the center makes me a happy and seems to convince that life is so easy!


Living  here is very different from living in the cites, In the latter, There are so many not so important things that become very important to us – Branded apparel, A Big House, Make up, which turns out to be unnecessary once you get here. The kids love and respect you for who you are. You can definitely throw those things you find hard to give up there. It feels good to be here and one should definitely experience life at IHF,  I am sure it will be one of the most wonderful memories in your life.

img_2844 And since this is my second week here, I started teaching. Writing lesson plan is a new experience for me. My co-director here keeps giving me some great advice on how to make it more understandable and easy for the kids to absorb the lesson. What’s more?  The way IHF staff work and communicate through internet efficiently is worth learning. All the files in the drives are clearly sorted and  spreadsheets are clear and helpful. It’s a pity that as a voluntourist I can’t do those online work, but overall I enjoyed my time so much and think this is a wonderful experience being a volunteer in IHF center.

Saying Goodbye to Jakarta

By:  Jeanne, Work-Study Jakarta

I have now reached the end of my four week volunteering trip with IHF in Jakarta. Firstly, I have to say that the time here went really fast, Blog2so you have to enjoy each precious moment. All the time you spend teaching and playing with the children is wonderful; like the time spent with the all the other volunteers.

A usual week here is divided into teaching, welcoming and playing with the students, and we also have our online team work to do. Every day we have our lovely Ibu who comes to take care of the center, and cook delicious Indonesian food for us. During the evening, we have Blog3free time to share our dinner, and hang out with the local volunteers. In one month here, you really learn about Indonesian culture. And I have to say that Indonesians, without exception, are the nicest people I have ever met. They will always help you, and envelope you in their culture.


I think I just would love to stay more than four weeks, it was too fast, and I am going to really miss all the people here.


Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia)

By ZheWei (IHF, Jakarta Work-Study)

After working at IHF for more than a month, I was able to take a few days off to explore the country.  I wanted to visit somewhere that was relatively close to Jakarta, yet far enough for me to get a different taste of Indonesia.  So, on a quiet Thursday morning, I hopped on a flight bound for the historic city of Yogyakarta, also known as, Jogja.

GunungMerapiOn the first day, I visited Gunung Merapi.  The towering volcano was set in a lush green landscape.  Its peak was flanked by clouds most of the time.  We were told that on some days, one can even see plumes of smoke rising from the caldera.  I visited some of the surrounding landscapes, and a house that was destroyed by the pyroclastic flow from one of the recent eruptions.  The dire state of the house was a reminder of how powerful the force of nature could be.

The following morning, I went on a tour of some of the historic sites in Jogja.  I visited the Borobudur temple, which is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.  Walking around each of the nine layers of the temple in the early morning gave me a sense of tranquility – a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of Jakarta.  I watched as the sun rose behind curtains of mist.  And as the mist slowly fell away, I looked in awe as the magnificent Borobudur was bathed in sunlight.  It was a mystical experience.

After that, I visited the Prambanan temples, which was also built in the 9th century.  The site of the Prambanan temples hosts a number of individual monuments, nestled in the midst of some of the temple ruins.  The relief panels on the main temple depict scenes from the Ramayana, an ancient Hindu epic poem.  Having studied this text in school before, I was delighted to be able to recognize some of the scenes from the story as I wandered around the temple complex.  It was wonderful to see the scenes from such a culturally significant text brought to life on the walls of this beautiful Hindu temple.

My final stop for the trip was Goa Jomblang.  To get into the cave, visitors have to be strapped to a harness and manually lowered down a 60m drop. The journey was exhilarating.  Around midday, sunlight filtered down into the cave and illuminated the inside with streaks of bright light.  There was an underground river flowing below us and the dappled surfaces of the limestone rocks reminded me of coral reefs.  The feeling was out of this world.

The best thing about Jogja was it’s lovely mix of history and nature.  On one hand there are the beautiful Borobudur and Prambanan temples from the 9th century, on the other, there is the towering volcano, Gunung Merapi and the beautiful caves, Goa Jomblang and Goa Pindul.


Visiting Jogja has opened my eyes to some of the wonders that Indonesia has to offer. I am glad that I decided to work with the IHF this summer. Otherwise, I would not have come to know the beauty that is Indonesia.

Kenya: First Impressions

By: Cao Yaqing, Work-Study Kenya

I have been in the center for four days. First I took one day to recover from the 24-hour-Blog3flight, and then I started to work. Aggie and Edita, the co-directors here, gave a tour of the center for me. There are several little houses in the Center. The work-study volunteers, voluntourists and Edita live in the same hall, little girls and bigger girls live in another, and boys, Aggie and Isabel live in the one nearest to our neighbor. We also have two fields, and staff plant corn, kale, cabbage and tomatoes on them. When I arrived there are some rabbits too. But we decide to kill them all but one (a pet for Manuel).

Things are both better and worse than I expected. Recently we have a severe shortage of water. We were using water from several big tanks. However, we have good sanitation. The staff clean the floors and tables every morning. And the bed sheets are very clean.

Blog2Our former director, Julie, left this Saturday. And all of the staffs gathered giving her a farewell party. Kids all wrote the words they want to say to her. And it’s so sweet to see the childish handwriting and little heart symbols.

The kids here, is another thing that shocked me. They have really good behavior and mature thoughts. I talked with them a lot. The secondary school students always know what they want to do and are working to achieve it. The primary school students, they are playful as usual kids, but at the same time, when I talked to them, I can’t see a difference between them and me.


Exploring Jakarta

By:  ZheWei, Work-Study Jakarta

I’ve been at the Jakarta centre for just over a week now and I’ve started to settle into the way of life here. The days are fairly simple – we work during the day, break fast in the evening and play games or tell stories afterwards. Other than the pesky mosquitoes, and a Sulawesifew cockroach scares here and there, life’s been pretty good here.

On my second day off since the start of my stay, I decided to visit the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (trans: the Beautiful Mini Indonesia Park). When I arrived, I was immediately blown away by how huge the park was. There were a number of attractions within the park, including museums of all sorts, exhibits, theatres, and a big lake right at the center of it all. I rented an old, rickety bicycle, and set off to explore.

As I circled the park, I saw various life-sized models of traditional Indonesian dwellings. Each of them represented a region in Indonesia. There were structures of different shapes and sizes and they were all uniquely beautiful. My favorite was the traditional Sulawesi dwelling, with its curved roof and intricate detailing.

Another highlight was the Bird Park. Many of the birds were not kept within small enclosures and were allowed to roam freely within a large dome. I had fun walking into the various domes and following the different kinds of birds around, including the large storks, beautiful peacocks and the majestic hornbill.


I was also pleasantly surprised that there was a Indonesian Hakka Museum in the park. Hakka is a Chinese dialect, and it is also used to refer to the people from that dialect group. Coming from a Hakka background, it was enlightening and comforting to read about the history of this group of people in Indonesia, many of who come from the same ancestral village as my ancestors – Fujian Yongding.

All in all, my visit to the park has made me more eager to visit other attractions around this area. I can’t wait to see more of Jakarta!

How IHF Changed My Life

By: Mengjie, Work-Study Bali

It is my second week at Bali center, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to
come here. Although the first day the kids and I are were strangers to each
other, they still give me the best welcome I’ve ever had. They are so zealous and have enthusiasm for everything. At first, I thought it would be hard to remember their Indonesian names, but I’ve found that everything happens naturally. I became familiar with each kid while playing with them, learning their characteristics and fortes. They are all quick learners, always curious and passionate. They are naughty sometimes too, but always know when to stop. Most of time they just do that to play with you.

IMG_2889They are even my teachers sometimes. So far, they have already taught
me two magic tricks and how to make a flower using tissue paper. I learned so
much from them and the environment here makes me a happier and easier person.
Living in cites, there are so many things that seem important, brands, a big house, makeup, which all turn out to be unnecessary once you get here. The kids
love and respect you for who you are. You can definitely throw out those things that you find hard to give up, but alienate you from being yourself. It feels good and you should definitely stop hesitating and come to IHF. It will be one of the most treasured memories in your life.

IMG_2954Since this is the second week, I have started to have teaching tasks. My co-director gives me great advice, such as separating knowledge points to make them more understandable for kids, and try to always interact with the kids to attract their attention and let them think for themselves. What’s more, the way IHF staff work and communicate online is worth learning. All the files are in drives are clearly sorted and the Excel documents are clear and helpful. It’s a pity that as a voluntourist I don’t do online work, but overall I enjoyed my time so much and I think it is a wonderful experience to be a volunteer in IHF center.


A Lesson in Love

By: Yaqing, Work-Study Nakuru

The water is a mystery here. Before I came here, I got used to the idea of no hot showers. And I figured I could tolerate that. When I arrived here, I was told that there is not even cold running water. We use water from a big tank, and the water company comes to refill the tank when it runs out.


Fortunately, two weeks later water started to come regularly, and it was then we started to be disappointed and satisfied. The water may come in the morning or afternoon. It may come after three days, and nobody can wash their uniforms, take showers, or even drink. When the water comes, all the kids are so happy; we wash our clothes, take showers, and save water in buckets—and that’s when there is a shortage of buckets. As a volunteer who needs to prepare the cooking portion for the next day, I can’t always find buckets for storing the rice, ugali, or sugar. They’ve been saved for water or used by others.



I’d never thought about the severe shortages of everything before I came here—and I find myself using “before I came here” a lot these days. We need buckets for kids, plates to have dinner, uniforms, and needlework…and we don’t always have enough money to purchase food. However, I’m impressed by how much the kids are happily tolerating the difficult situations here. I’ve never heard them complaining about anything. I can feel that they love here so much and they have such a strong desire to go to school. And I can also see how good their behavior is. I remember somebody said, “when you come to volunteer for kids, it’s not them being helped, it’s yourself that’s being helped.” And I know well what he is saying now.