Voluntourist life at IHF Chiang Rai

By Patcharaporn, Voluntourist, IHF Chiang Raig

I cannot believe that it has been a week now since I arrived at the Chiang Rai Center. I still remember the first day I arrived at the Chiang Rai Airport, all soaked from the heavy rain. With the help of Ushmi, one of the co-directors here at the center, I was able to reach the center safely without any problems. When I got here, it was a gloomy Saturday evening, but the smiles and giggles of the children helped brighten the mood. Before arriving at the center, I was a bit nervous, but after spending a few hours with the children, all my worries went away.

Throughout High School, I did several volunteer projects with young children from low-income families or less fortunate backgrounds around Thailand. In addition, this spring break, I volunteered to help teach preschoolers at KIPP DC, a charter school in Washington DC for a week. Although, I have some experience teaching and working with less privileged children, I was not sure whether my experiences will be helpful for the children here at the Chiang Rai Center. Nonetheless, everyone at the center was so willing to help me adjust and before I knew it, one week has gone by.

In the beginning, the children were shy and did not know how to approach me. They were probably used to the concept of seeing a new volunteer come and replaced by a new volunteer in a couple of weeks. Therefore, one of my main goals for this trip was to be able toIMG_7992 connect with the children and help them out whenever they needed me. In contrary to my expectations, the children were easy to talk to and instead tried to help me out when I was clueless most of the time. I enjoyed playing table tennis with them, cooking and eating dinner with them, and even just spending time chatting about their day at school. Watching them come back from school and finish their homework every day warms my heart. Unlike my High School self, these children are so responsible and reliable. It made me realize how much I take having my parents around for granted. Moreover, seeing them work together, helping each other clean the dishes or helping each other with homework, makes me so relieved. Although some of the children may not have parents or are living away from their parents, this small tight knit community is like their extended family.

Furthermore, other than helping with the center chores and teaching English to the children, I was able to plan a fundraising event for the center. It was a very good opportunity for me to put my experiences from college into good use. Moreover, it is another good way to raise awareness and money for the center. I was very pleased to hear that if everything goes out as planned, then this project will be a be a good start up for future events.

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Overall, this week has been spectacular. I learned so much from the children and from everyone around me. I cannot wait for another amazing week!

The welcoming atmosphere of IHF Jakarta

by Heidi, Work Study, IHF Jakarta

My first week at the IHF Jakarta education centre is complete, but instead it feels like I’ve been here a month. I came from a study abroad semester in Singapore, hIMG_1134[1]aving submitted my last papers a few days before, with no expectations about the centre. I was pleasantly surprised. What struck me about the centre is its welcoming atmosphere: the kids feel completely at home and hang around for a long time after class, playing and chatting. It’s also so pretty! I love the way the walls are decorated.

The week’s highlights included bonding with Ayu, one of the centre’s resident young people whilst helping her make chocolate jelly. I also loved sitting in on the classes given by one of our Co-directors, Christina, to the youngest children, who are incredibly cute. Whilst I’m enjoying my Sunday – it’s a well-earned rest, I can’t wait for next week to start and for me to really find my feet teaching.

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“You sing, I dig”

by Marcel, Co-Director, IHF Kenya

It’s been 6 weeks now since I got here. The thing I learned is not to struggle. The world goes in its own pace, and we are in no position to change it. We simply accept the way things are and let them take their natural course.

Few weeks ago, I visited a school attended by some of our children. Before going there, I had learned from one of them that their teacher wanted more money for the weekend classes he teaches. As we have no more money for education, we couldn’t pay it, so he decided to take our children in front of the class, told them to kneel down and made them a “bad example” for others. When I heard that, I couldn’t believe it. How could he do that? How is it their fault that they have no money? I thought how I would react if they were my children. I was furious. On the way to school, I spoke with Rafa, who has been here for 6 months. He told me that firstly, it is good that children are not beaten and that secondly, he went through the exact same phase when he first came here. He said, “Man, I was so pissed about so many things…” We went to school and spoke with both teachers and principal; we explained to teachers that we have no more money to pay for weekend classes.
“You must have some money in case when something happens.”
“Yes we do have money in case something happens, but if we give you this money and something happens, we would not have any money.”
It took a bit of explanation to make them aware that punishing our children is both wrong and ineffective. I just tried to stay calm. The principal on the other hand was a very nice, helpful and understanding person. She told us that IHF pupils are doing better and better, some of them are even at the very top of their class. I was glad to hear that. The whole experience was a good lesson of peace and patience – something you cannot learn any other way except by living.

weeding the maize

I went to do some farming. A farm plot is divided into lines, about 150, each 70-100 meters long. It’s a long distance to do with mattock in your hands and sun burning over your head. Anyway a few meters after I started, I drank some water. A few meters later, 4 girls came around.
“Hey Marcel what are you doing?”
“Farming. Want to sing me some songs?”
“You sing, you sing.”
“I don’t know any song. You sing, I dig.”
“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lions sleeps tonight…” They made it so much easier for me now :) “Can we help?”
“Sure, who wants the next turn”
“Me.” “Me.” “Me…” I had to get more tools.
Soon, we were done. “That’s gonna take me hours” I remember thinking at the beginning of work, now it’s finished. No struggle, no expectations, just let things happen the way they do.

How to create a basket with only a plastic bag? Crochet!

By Barbara, Voluntourist, IHF Bali

Before coming to Indonesia, a lot of people told me about the big trash problem in Bali. Since I’m concerned with this environmental issue, I wanted to organize a handcrafting workshop using IMG_4193recycled materials for the kids. The workshop was one of the special projects the center plans for the kids every week.

To prepare for the workshop, I took the kids to the beach to collect trashed plastic bags as workshop material. It is unbearable to watch this magnificent landscape become stained with human waste. The kids were excited and made a game out of searching for the more colorful ones. I believe that learning the importance of recycling is one of the most important lessons we must pass onto the next generation in order to preserve the environment and raise awareness about the local community problems.

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After getting back from the beach, I gave the kids a sneak peak of what we were going to do in the workshop (crocheting objects like baskets or mats using recycled plastic bags).

During the demonstration, a little girl asked me if she could try to do it by herself and I was amazed by how quickly she picked it up. Balinese people, especially children, are particularly gifted in hand crafting, I think this is because they help their parents make the offerings for the ceremonies since they were little. In my opinion, the skill is definitely worthy of preserving, especially in a world where intriguing skills like this are being forgotten and lost.

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Warming up for Pass it On at IHF Medan!

by Sahat, Co-Director, IHF Medan

These two weeks are going to be very busy at the center due to final exams and celebrating Pass it on Ceremony. Lots of activities have been done in the process of learning that we usually do, as the regular classes we have of all the levels. Since we will have Pass it on Ceremony after completing final exams, all the teachers and co-directors have been trying to organize for some activities and programs that we will  present to the performance for the Pass it on Ceremony. Students and teachers are encouraged to get take part in the activites, such as dancing, singing, games, reading aloud of poetry and others. At the moment, they had been trying to train and practice for the dancing (Tor-Tor Dance Batak). Everybody, especially teachers, took part with a few of students.Please EDIT this picturE (2)

We want to make the Pass it on Ceremony full of great moments, especially when they get their certificates and prizes based on their achievement in class. We also provide a special prize for the winners of each class. The purpose of giving the prize is to motivate and encourage the students to be better than they can do for the next semester. After a long semester, a few schools will have holiday for the fasting month. That means we will organize more for the students’ activities at the center. We should never stop learning.Please EDIT this picture

Back to school!

by Ushmi, Co-Director, IHF Chiang Rai

The weekend before school after a two month holiday was a very hectic one for us here at the Chiang Rai center.

Sunday was definitely not the day of rest for us. We spent almost four full hours fixing hems on uniforms. The evening found the girls running around with masked faces and creams of all sorts, covering spots and healing sun burnt skin. I came to learn about the magic of tamarind in this affair. The boys got their hair cut trim and proper – I was proud yet surprised that they returned with a simple number two haircut; smart and uniformed fit for a good school boy. After dinner a friend and I fixed a big wok of egg-fried rice for the kids’ breakfast and lights were out by 10pm.

At a quarter to 6 the next morning I awoke with Sukanya yelling alarm clock sounds, making sure everyone woke up on time. I had never, in my days at IHF, seen the kids so enthusiastic about going to school. The excitement was almost comparable to that of Christmas day. The school truck is scheduled to arrive at 7am. By half past 6 we were all sitting on the benches outside, ready and waiting. As the kids chatted and chuckled, about what they were expecting from friends and new classes I’m guessing, I sat there observing. It made me smile to see how happy they were to go back to school.

As they drove out of the center gates in the school truck I found my mind drive back to my high school days. I remember my first days back at school. I remember feeling excited to see friends but nervous about the possibility of new faces in a new class. I remember organizing everything I needed for school the night before – something that I was only ever organized for in the first couple of weeks. As I accelerated my mind back into reality I felt somewhat disappointed at how spoilt I behaved when I was that age. I wandered back to the last hour at the center, what I was most proud of our kids at IHF was how well they organized themselves and helped each other without me having to follow them around, having to remind them to take things they need for school and pushing them out of the door so they wouldn’t be late.

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It is amazing at how much one can take having parents around for granted. My mother would pack lunch for me, including a bottle of water, in a bag that she left on the dining table. She even had to remind me to take my bag as I ran out of the door for school. I remember getting frustrated sometimes because she forgot to pack a fork in my bag for the potato mayonnaise salad she made fresh that morning for my lunch.

Some people have everything served on a silver plate, some people don’t. But that doesn’t mean that the latter are less fortunate – they are just living in different circumstances. What I have learnt in these past months is that the latter type of people are the happier type of people. For me, perhaps they are more fortunate.

How Banda Aceh welcomed me

By Ilya, Work-Study, IHF Banda Aceh

It has been a week since I arrived in Banda Aceh, and the past seven days have been eye-opening and heart-warming, to say the least. The local and international volunteers are extremely welcoming and friendly, which makes it so much easier for me to assimilate into this new environment. It is also difficult not to fall in love with the students here instantly. During my two months here, I’ll be teaching the younger ones, and I am thrilled to see how classes turn out. I will also be working with the older ones for a fundraiser. We had a meeting two days ago, and they were incredibly dynamic and enthusiastic about it. We thought of having an ‘International Food Sale’ for a week during Ramadhan, where Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. We have set high standards for ourselves so I hope we will work hard to achieve that!

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SD1 kids hard at work
I’ve also been explored a bit beyond Banda Aceh this week. Yesterday, I went to Kuta Melaka in Aceh Besar with Dustin, Jessica and Anggara. We trekked barefooted (except for Anggara, who was wearing his slippers) up the terrain to check out the higher points of the waterfalls. The air and water there was so refreshing and cooling. I think it was my first time not feeling hot and sweaty since I’ve arrived! We also caught the sunset at Lampuuk Beach in Lhok Nga. That was where the tsunami occurred 11 years ago. The coastline has since receded, creating a large bay that allows for surfing activities.aceh2

Seven exciting weeks more to go!

Website Development

Dearest IHF Family,

In order to make our organization’s main webpage more efficient and helpful, we are currently raising funds to update the site. To help, please make a general donation through http://www.ihfonline.org and specify that it is for our website development. We are ever grateful for your contributions.

Sincerely,

IHF Fundraising Team

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Different Country: Different Kids

By Clara, Work-Study, IHF Bali

In my first week with IHF in their Bali center, I could notice a stark difference between the children h2015-05-18 14.59.28ere and the children back at home in Canada.

Here, the children are content with making the best of the resources around them – be it by swimming in the ocean or by playing games with their friends. Where I am from, many children do not even go outside to play anymore and are engrossed in playing by themselves on electronic devices instead.

Stress does not seem to find its way into the children here either. They seem to know that as long as they keep coming to class and keep working hard, they will land on their feet.

It is refreshing and heartwarming to see how the children here find so much happiness in the world, with the little they have.

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My Work-Study Experience at IHF Medan

by Evgenia, Work-Study, IHF Medan

I had enjoyed so much volunteering at IHF Center in Medan, Indonesia. It  was a mutual learning experience. I was teaching but at the same time I learnt a lot. The one month with IHF can be described through some lasting memories that I collected.

My role at the Center was “Work- DSCN6208study volunteer”. In fact, I did anything and everything that could be useful. My tasks have ranged from making videos, fundraising, and posting advertisements, to teaching the kids and making art and craft classes. The experience I have gained has been phenomenal and the exposure to the donor community has been more than I could have hoped for. It’s been a marvelous experience!

Living in Medan has been very interesting. I am going to miss my lovely room and the Indonesian culture. I am leaving next week, and it is definitely emotional. I have made some incredible friends– both at work and outside of the center. I will miss eating Nasi Goreng with my Co-directors, Lissa, Sahat, Zoe and Aditi everyIMG_20150507_151730_082 afternoon and traveling around Sumatra during the weekends. Living in Indonesia is quite an amazing experience. I have had the best time and overall, I wouldn’t have planned it any other way!

The best part about the whole experience was the love and respect that the children would express every time we met. They would always be so excited and eager to learn. They loved the art and craft classes. That paid me off.

While volunteering at IHF, I also saw the challenges that are involved in the management of an NGO. I know now, how hard it is to manage more than 100 kids of varied age groups. Though I would always crib as volunteering required a lot of work, the experience was worth it as it really inspires me to give back to the society. IHF lives up to its name. It gives one the hope that things can be changed and will change.
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