One week at IHF Banda Aceh

by Kai-Kai and Stina, Voluntourist, IHF Banda Aceh

The first day I arrived Banda Aceh was Saturday and I reached the IHF centre in the afternoon. There were many children in the centre and they were quite cute. We played football in the garden they were very excited. This was really a memorable experience for me.

On Monday, we watched how the teachers taught English to the children. The form of the class is very interesting and we learned some teaching skills. IACEH 2n the evening, we went to the shopping mall. We tried the local food such as coconuts, and experienced a quite different shopping experience in the local supermarket.

On Tuesday, we made some posters using oil pastels, this is really an interesting task and it was very fun.
On Wednesday, we had a very interesting art class. First, we painted pictures on papers as examples and then we used these pictures to show children how to paint. Then children painted by themselves and we gave them some help.

On Thursday, we started to teach the children. We taught aACEH3djectives and adverbs to the children with the co-director in the centre. It is the first time for us to teach children and it was a very memorable experience. In the evening, we went out to buy some durians. On the way, we saw a rainbow in the sky and it was very beautiful. We bought a durian on the street and the shopkeeper was a really funny man.

On Sunday evening, we had a very nice Thanksgiving dinner. It was a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. The local volunteers joined us and we all liked the food cooked by Emily, a co-director here.

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Travelling, helping and learning

By Pauline H, Voluntourist, IHF Bali

I enjoy traveling to different places and experience the local culture. When my friend told me the opportunity of being a volunteer in IHF center, I decided that I would not only travel to see the difference, but also travel to make a difference this time. Apparently, it would be a life-changing experience and after staying for a week, I am so glad that I made the right choice.

Bali has amazing natural environmeCIMG3188nt and Bali center locates at a very friendly neighborhood near the sea where everyone sends warm welcome and greetings to us new comers. What impressed me most on my first day here was that children were so excited and energetic that they tried using simple English they had learnt to talk with me, even before I got the chance to introduce myself.

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Though I have been staying for only a week so far, these lovely kids have taught me a very important lesson: a contented mind is a perpetual feast. Joy and happiness spread across our center every single day because of these children. It is my great honor to be their ‘kak’ (this is how local children call their teachers), to witness their growing desire to knowledge and their grateful heart to the sponsors and donors.
There is so much for me to take in everyday, which is totally beyond my expectation. And the radiant smiles on those children’s faces make all my efforts paid off. You know wait, I can’t wait to learn and grow with them in the following days now!

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Communication without communicating… The human race

by Ushmi, Co-Director, IHF Chiang Rai

Humans have a deep-rooted connection regardless of race. I realized about it here in Chiang Rai. I have always been in a situation where I can understand, and lucky enough, speak the language. Thailand has shown me otherwise.

This week the children had to write letters to their sponsors. We were sitting around a table in the verandah discussing the events of the past few weeks that they could share with their sponsors, and I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. We had a mixture of Spanish; British and Thai accents trying to formulate sentences and not forgetting Google translate to make sense of it all.

The children went back to their rooms to re-write their letters and decorate them. I read the final pieces before sending them and it was beautiful. The detail and emotion was so special and the pictures and colors around the paper was that extra time the children took… because they care, they love and they are thankful. Their English is so basic yet their feelings were expressed so strongly.

We ended the evening with Kentucky Fried Chicken treats as a thank you for their work and for helping with the family chores. It was like a family from different parts of the world, loving each other regardless of race. Like a human connection.

The next day we, the co-directors, had to do the big shop for the home- to buy necessities including soap, toothpaste and bags of rice and noodles. The super store is about a 20-minute drive from the IHF center, traffic forbid. Coming back proved difficult as it was a Saturday, the peak time for running errands, and calling a taxi was almost impossible. I stood at the highway hoping to be able to hail a taxi down but of course that was a situation only possible if you had ten hours to spare. So I decided to brave it and ‘speak’ to locals that owned a mobile furniture store alongside the highway. It turned out we were both fluent in gestures and managed to hitch a ride to the center with them: Communication without communicating.

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The Thai are, without a doubt, the friendliest and caring people I have ever met.
You have to find the inner human in you to communicate, and that is what the Thai have teach me. Chichiporn, the youngest at our Chiang Rai center, stands with a stick pointing at the Thai alphabet printed on the whiteboard, and has the patience to make sure we pronounce the letters and words as should be pronounced in Thai… but at the end of the day it is politeness and respect, the inner communication, that will take you where you need to go.

Get lost in Banda Aceh

by Catarina, Voluntourist, IHF Banda Aceh

It has been almost three weeks since I arrived in Banda Aceh. Now, I know the way home from town. It’s actually easy and I almost don’t understand how I could not find the way on my first night. You just go straight and at the end of the yellow and green wall, you turn left. Isn’t that easy? As it was dark that first night and there are no lights along the street, I took a becak–a motorbike sidecar taxi. Although IHF is only 10 minutes walking distance from the grocery store Suzuya, we went around and around for half an hour and at the end I just told the driver to let me off on the street. I called Timea to meet me, as I knew I was very close! There is an expression in Portugal that says, when you don’t know, you can’t  see. And I actually like this feeling. Get lost.

This very short and homemade video gives you an idea of my Banda Aceh lifestyle these past few weeks. It took me  hours and hours to make it and weeks to upload it, as the Internet connection is quite slow. So, even if it doesn’t exactly show the result I wanted, I do not have two more weeks to edit a new one! I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed living it.

New year, same problems

by Valeria, Co-Director, IHF Nakuru

New school year in Kenya has started on 5th January with a teacher’s strike, which means one more week of holidays for the children… or even more.

Primary school kids stayed the whole week at the center playing football, volleyball, jumping rope… Most of the Senior boys and girls still went to school to study by themselves without teachers, to review previous year’s materials or read books so they can be prepared for the review examination.

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About 288,000 educators in Kenyan public schools refused to come to work. The strike was provoked by the government’s withdrawal of a proposal to increase their salaries by as much as 60 percent. Teachers demand that their basic wages should be at least doubled. The government’s reply to the strike was to increases the annual wage bill for teachers to only 10 percent of the budget.

Next week teachers are expected to finish with their silent action and go out to the streets as some of them have already done in Nairobi. On Monday morning we will see if it is another week of holidays or a new beginning.

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The kids also take care of IHF Bali center!

By Jing T, Work-study volunteer, IHF Bali

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Picture this, kids running and jumping around, carrying plastic bags, brooms, dustpans, and butterfly nets, with light-hearted singing and cheering in air; what’s going on? Don’t freak out. They are NOT ganging up to turn the house upside down; taking a closer look, instead, you’ll find them up to something really nice: house-cleaning.

At Bali center, we have our own garden and fishpond, and during the rainy season now, they get messy and muddy easily. A pain in the eye and damp in spirit, it needs to be fixed somehow, to be restored to its usual beauty and tidiness. With that in mind, a special cleaning project was set up, for everyone to do one’s own part to help care for our beloved home.

After nearly one hour of sweating, the kids were rewarded for their good work with an invigorating swim in the pool, all excited and without any trace of exhaustion. Well done, kids!

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The daily life of an eleven-year old

by Anna, Voluntourist, IHF Chiang Rai

Every morning, the beeping of an old minivan, “the school bus”, wakes me up. Not long after the van arrives, a tiny but lively figure would rush out of the dorm door, with leather school shoes in one hand and a backpack in the other, and hop on the van with such skillfulness that you would think she is performing. So here you go — an eleven-year-old’s daily life has begun in Chiang Rai.

What she does at school reminds mystery to us. Whenever we try to ask her, she would playfully say, “I don’t know” and sometimes with a wink.

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The only thing I know is that a Thai elementary school does make an eleven-year-old very hungry. The first time I picked her up from school, I was surprised by how many little food trucks were waiting at the school gate. There was a large selection of Thai snacks that I cannot name, but there were also common snacks (well, common to me imagesat least) such as potato chips, popsicles, and an ice cream snack that highly resembles Dippin Dots. On a hot sunny day in a tropical country like Thailand, there is no wonder that seeing all these would make a little girl’s mouth water.

The fifteen-minute-walk from school to home has been a good workout to me. As she puts it, “I like to RUUUN”, which apparently implies that “I like to run so you have to race with me”, I am forced to run across a golf field (which is totally legal), pass numerous dogs that bark at us as if we just stole their babies, and finally to the center, exhausted. However, apart from the danger of getting too fit, a plus of this “walk” is that I am usually more than willing to take a cold shower right after it.

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About an hour after my shower, it is time for her individually tailored English class. As usual, she would touch my wet hair, roll her eyes and say, “I don’t like showers” and then reluctantly take out her textbook and start to think about which lesson she would enjoy today. After a few pages, however, the eleven-year-old would appear to be more and more engaged and sometimes demand me to teach her more.

As a reward after class, I am usually asked to sit next to her and watch cartoons in Thai, a language that I understand nothing but “hello” and “thank you”. I am also asked to be interested and laugh whenever it is supposed to be funny. This has been a real challenge to be and has urged me to learn some Thai or at least something about this Japanese children’s show.

As days go by, I am gradually learning more about this eleven-year-old’s life, about the little things she enjoys and her little thoughts about life. I have to admit that this is fascinating to me: attempted to teach someone but ended up learning more from her.

A special New Year’s Eve!

by Zoe, Co-Director, IHF Jakarta

This New Year’s Eve was one of the most unique that I have celebrated.  Most members of the IHF family in Jakarta were gathered early in the evening to make the preparations for the night. Voices and laughers were becoming louder and louder by the minute, fires for the barbecue were lit and colorful paper filled the living room for the preparation of our piñata.

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When the corn and the sausages were cooked, we all sat together on the floor, around a big table. After our lovely dinner was finished, it was the time to breany6k the piñata. Everybody was very excited and most of us had a shot with the final hit coming from Miss Siti. When all the confetti and candies popped out from the piñata all the children run and picked up as many candies as they could! Then we played more games like hide and seek, until it was the time for the countdown.

ny5A while before midnight we all sat ny2outside in the street. People from all the neighborhoods in Jakarta had already started lighting fireworks, so soon we were surrounded by all these beautiful colorful lights in the night sky. At 12 o’clock, we also lit our own fireworks. We wished each other good luck and happiness for the New Year, wearing the festive hats that the SD classes had prepared during their holiday activities at the center.

I hope that all of you had an equally great New Year’s Eve and I wish you all the best for 2015 and the years to come!

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Christmas Week in Aceh!

by Timea, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

The Christmas week in Aceh was very special, even though most of our students don’t celebrate this holiday. Despite this, they still have two weeks free from school and most of them took the time to go bacDSC01355k to their villages to be with their families. For the ones who decided to come even during the holidays, we held special classes each day.

Surprisingly, we had quite a lot of students attending these classes and all of them seemed very enthusiastic about not having to learn too much! We had movie afternoons and art classes, where children drew big portraits of each other or made papier-mâché heads to decorate later. Unfortunately, the papier-mâché didn’t survive the last attack of the rainy season (it rained all week!), the humidity wouldn’t let them dry so we couldn’t finish the project. The important thing is however, that the children had a lot of fun working on this, and so did we.

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Our new local volunteer, Andi who studied nursing at uniDSC01431versity, held a workshop about personal hygiene for both SD and SMP&SMA students. All of them were very keen to learn how to wash your hands and brush your teeth properly and they enjoyed Andi’s presentation very much. Andi was very resourceful when planning this class, he played some educational videos and everyone had to demonstrate what they have learned at the end of the class. It was a very successful event and Andi promised us that he will prepare more workshops about other important topics.

The nicest thing that we could observe during this week is how well the children from all our classes get along with each other. Almost every day, they would stay behind after classes to play UNO and have fun together regardless of their age. It was truly heartwarming.

We wish you a happy new year from Banda Aceh!DSC01459

Happy Christmas at IHF Chiang Rai!

by Cece, Voluntourist, IHF Chiang Rai

Just before Christmas Day, our children decided to clean the backyard of the center. Their lauchristmasblog1ghter amused me and I was really happy to see them motivating themselves for the benefits of the center and creating a better environment for everybody’s lives here!

I felt so lucky to spend the festive season with everyo  ne in the center as a big family! We decided to celebrate with a big pizza dinner and some Christmas presents shopping for the children (We tried to think of the best presents we can get them within very limited budget and it turned out they enjoyed it!). Even if I have only stayed at the center for just over a week, I felt welcomed that the children came to my classes after a whole day at school, talked and laughed at the dinner table (even though they talked in Thai to each other most of the time), gave me a shy smile when I talked to them and came to consult me with their English homework (One of the girls told me she wanted to be a tourist guide in the future and she is really talented with language studying!). Even though there were some obstacles and hardship, I still felt like home!christmasblog2 (1)

On the day off, I joined a hill trekking tour organized by a local tribe people. They told me they also received help when they were young so that they are able to leave the tribes, stayed in the city and even now, opened their own business or NGOs. Local people’s life is simple but hard on the hills. 12 hours’ tremendous labor work for the whole day only earns them a couple of hundred baht. So they really appreciate the fact that there are so many people from the world that are willing to help.

Yesterday another coordinator came and soon one more will join the team! It is really good news because nothing is more beneficial than a stable, caring and more disciplined environment for the children to grow up within and I’m confident with all of their effort, IHF Chiang Rai will become a better home each and every day!

New Year’s came and I wish them all the best for their future! It’s only five days away till I finish this journey. I will treasure it and keep following the news of IHF and help as much as I can while I’m away from the center. I hope everybody who is reading my blog offer your precious help to the children too.

Thank you in advance and happy New Year to everyone! :)christmasblog3