Sunbathing on the beach for months, that’s not my cup of tea! So I went searching for a project at a local foundation where I could help out. I wanted to help out with children and most of all with special needs children. A friend referred me to the WINS Foundation. They work together with the Yayasan Widya Guna in Bedulu, close to Ubud. They offer support to five Learning Centers on Bali. This Yayasan is the only one that focuses on special needs children. So this time no holiday for me… the alarm clock early morning… on my motorbike to Bedulu and it was worth all my time and effort!
The challenges of disabled children
The services, schools and chances in Indonesia for disabled children or people in general are most of the time not affordable or out of reach for most parents. Children are the ‘pension’ for parents in Indonesia, but a disabled child is not. They are a burden. Sometimes they are put away in a little room and get a bit of rice three times a day. Expensive therapies or medication, which these children need, have no priority, as they simply can’t afford it. This makes helping out at this place so valuable. There is another nice project on Flores that supports disabled people and teach them something with which they earn money.
The first day I mainly observed the group of about 32 special needs ‘children’, between 6 and 27 years old. Yes, 27, only a bit bigger. Because the disabilities vary so much, it was sometimes hard to find a good teaching method. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this challenge! Normally we started the day with some yoga and dance and exercises in personal hygiene. The rest of the morning I enjoyed time with some clever girls who wanted to learn English. As I wanted to learn the Indonesian language, it worked both ways! We had so much fun. In the afternoon the children often do little projects in which they make arts that they can sell to visitors, like bracelets, little bags, kites, postcards, etc. In this way each child earns a little pocket money.
During my time at the foundation we have painted the school together with some other volunteers. The different classrooms are now much brighter and joyful. In the lunchroom every child’s handprint has been put on the wall. The children where so happy to be part of the painting process, but it wasn’t an easy task. Some were afraid of the paint, didn’t dare to put their hands in, some even started throwing the paint. But at the end we all had fun and the school became a nice place to be.
What this voluntourism experience taught me
This voluntourism experience taught me to look differently at certain things and changed my perspective. Every day I had spent time with these children who don’t have an easy life. Nevertheless they have accepted themselves as they are. When something doesn’t work in a certain way they know it will work in another way. They just don’t give up. As they don’t have such high expectations of themselves, but just live in the ‘now’, they are not easily disappointed. The happier they are when they do succeed! The most beautiful of all… they help each other without expecting something back! I now look different at ‘disabled’ people. Not as people who can’t walk or talk. These kids choose not to put ‘dis’ in their abilities. I think a real disability is when people can’t find joy in life.
The above is something I didn’t only see in the school, but in every day life in Indonesia. Indonesian people don’t complain as much and are satisfied much easier. Examples you see everywhere: holes in the roads, no clear opening hours, restaurants who can’t offer dishes because they don’t have stock. It is what it is and that is fine.
About Yayasan Widya Gun Foundation
Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. That is the motto of the Yayasan Widya Guna foundation. The vision of the foundation is to make a difference by supporting children in Indonesia that cannot afford to go to school. Without an education these kids are likely to remain in poverty.
This is a class of special needs children. Different disabilities, different age, different problems, but one thing in common: they want to learn, no matter what.
Feel free to visit the school and play with the kids. The school is located in Bedulu, a 5-minute ride from Ubud.
Other great voluntourism initiatives
Nowadays there are more and more possibilities to help out during your holiday for a short period. One of these initiatives is I Like Local, but also Projects Abroad has some good options. Shira Lazar shares some of her favorite sites on her Huffington post article about voluntourism.
Vivian is a dreamer, passionate about Bali and in love with her own Balinese. She also writes about her experiences on her blog Memories Like Tattoos.