26th May 2016.
Parent Chad Laws reflects on how a visit from 36 parents and students from the International School of Kuala Lumpur has created a ripple effect on education in Bali.
Bursting with contrast, each brightly colored sarong is delicately framed by ink black headwraps and cloud white shirts. Winding gracefully past an electric green terrace of rice, the procession continued its temple journey to honor the full moon. Turning to our students to assure they too were taking in the scene, my friend offers a sublime smile and states “In Bali, culture comes to you”.
Sifting through these words I cannot help but think of the dichotomy of this experience. Here’s this rich scene that, in part, draws millions of happy holiday makers annually to this little Indonesian island that is globally recognized for its unique culture. Yet in parallel, and it’s not hard to see if you’re looking, is the existence of many Balinese people who work very hard, have very little, and will never have an opportunity to break their cycle of poverty.
Bali Children’s Project (BCP), established in 1990, was created to address this very issue. Their motto, “Escaping Poverty Through Education”, is compelling, and it is working. As families face financial hardship, they are often forced to pull their children out of school to work at low paying jobs just to survive, eliminating any chance of achieving a better life.
Through various programs, Bali Children’s Project seeks to provide education for children in order for them to secure higher paying jobs, earning themselves and their families out of poverty.
Designed as an extension of ISKL’s service learning initiative, the Global Action Program (GAP), our recent Bali Children’s Project volunteer mission is the first of its kind. Over the course of three days in May, 17 ISKL students from 5th grade, each accompanied by a parent, worked across multiple projects at revolving locations around the village of Penestanan near the town of Ubud.
Activities included the design and painting of murals, planting of gardens to support eco studies, as well as boxing and delivery of library resources for schools; including bilingual books and educational toys.
In addition, ISKL students and parents worked in small groups to assemble 80 “hygiene kits”, each including a washcloth, soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, nail clippers and a written instruction booklet.
Both the supplies we purchased and the projects we completed were unique to this mission, established a baseline, and will evolve in subsequent years along with the changing needs of BCP students.
For me, what brings this particular initiative value is the methodology behind it. Similar in approach to the Peace Corps started by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961, all activities should eventually lead to self-sustainment by the local community.
The message was well framed by mission organizer, Ms. Suji DeHart, saying “I like to work myself out of a job”. She went on to say that proof of success for this ISKL initiative is that BCP won’t need us to volunteer in future as they should be able to grow the required skills and resources to achieve goals on their own.
As 17 eager Red Hats gathered on the first morning, Ms. DeHart explained not only their activities for the day, but the role they are playing in support of a sustainable ISKL, and the world at large. “You will be presenting (a slide show) to the 5th graders, and maybe even the 4th graders, as they will be coming through next year. You guys are ambassadors for service”. So, what did these “ambassadors for service” really do over the next 52 hours?
They solved problems, listened to one another, deliberated, ideated, took ownership, collaborated; and they had a great time doing so in the process.
Ayu Trisna, Schools Support Manager for Bali Children’s Project, has been full of enthusiasm from the beginning. Her attitude towards every project sums up the ethos of the charity. Ayu started her job with no pay at all, volunteering in a local pre-school as a teacher, getting by on minimal resource. Having been invited to join the Bali Children’s Project team, Ayu was tasked with standardizing improvements to all Balinese schools that are struggling from minimal resource.
‘I thank the ISKL students for their kindness. There are many kindergartens and pre-schools in Bali that need help, and we can only help them if other people also help us’… ‘The ISKL trip has given time, materials, supplies and donations that will aid children from poor families to access good education’.
ISKL’s support wasn’t only for schools themselves.
Bali Children’s Project also run a highly effective sponsorship program for children who cannot afford to go to school. The sponsorships are life changing and part of a growing initiative to enhance the lives of youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I come to learn that in Bali, there are many levels of education available, but they come at a cost. Ajeng Tantia Ingram is about to start her final year in school. But school in Bali is not free. Her family has not been able to pay her school fees and she has racked up a huge debt. In addition, the school will not give her a certificate without all her debts being paid.
After totaling donations from our visit, Bali Children’s Project is now able to sponsor this young girl to finish school debt free and acquire her certification. The excess donations have provided a welcome relief for Ajeng, who can now look to the future knowing she has an opportunity to escape poverty through education.
Wrapping up our final day, ISKL students were asked what was their favorite part of the BCP active service. Although the answers varied by activity, most shared a common theme.
Ann-Sophie “liked planting the garden because the children will benefit from learning about it”, Charlie’s favorite was “meeting the kids we were helping because we got to make a relationship with them and get to know the people”, while several others reflected on the value of painting murals as they brightened up dark spaces, bring smiles to kids’ faces, and make them happier.
My take away is simple. The world is full of culture, and some elements are easier to experience than others. By establishing a culture of service in our own children, we are not only helping those in need, we’re embracing a cycle of change.
Chad C. Laws, ISKL Parent