Friday, December 5, 2008

Heartwarming story of the day: Balinese orphanage

In case you think you're just one person, not significant enough to change anything about the world, check out this story. It was sent to me by Cynthia Dammerer, about how a local hotel group is helping out a Balinese orphanage. Kind of puts things in perspective.

“The traffic buzzed remorselessly down the highway, with cars, vans and bike jostling for the best position along the busy road between Nusa Dua and Benoa Harbour in beautiful Bali. Balinese families, sometimes three or four to a bike, pressed to get to work or home again.

Our van swung suddenly into a rough country lane heading to a rubbish dump, up past the tethered cows and parked cars. A pile of dirt and gravel metres high spread out opposite a small blue-and-white painted office, with two low-slung buildings on either side of a central pathway clogged with sitting children and wheelchair-bound young adults. The quietness seemed at odds with so many children present.

This is the setting of the YPAC orphanage and rehabilitation centre in Nusa Dua Bali, on my first visit in December 2006. It was a sobering glimpse of children’s life in another world. The teachers in charge eyed us suspiciously as we arrived – escorted by Yasa, who has volunteered at orphanages around Bali for years. Helping out, delivering donations when possible, and gathering small financial windfalls.

But this children’s facility only received enough rupiah from the government to feed four children rice each day. There are 59 of them. Some boys and girls live permanently in a small dormitory with mouldy mattresses on the floor, bereft of sheets or pillows and any home comforts. The doors on the toilets and showers do not close since the hinges are rusted open, and they are used to the full glare of traffic in the central pathway.

There is no refrigeration for the little food they do have. As meals generally consist of rice or noodles for breakfast lunch and dinner, rats have very little to attract them, but they saunter cockily about in the kitchen anyway. Classrooms are dingy, dull and lifeless, devoid of teaching aids bar a blackboard, but still we can detect a spark – an interest in learning today’s math lesson despite these surroundings.

We come bearing gifts from Australia . Used text books, dictionaries, games, novelty gifts, used clothing and shoes and some meager art supplies. We have also collected enough money in lieu of gifts at a recent 60th to buy the kids a desktop computer for their own use, and some new tables and chairs to eat the bowl of rice from. It is heartening to see the wide smiles of pleasure derived from a pre-loved baby-born doll, or an atlas, an Eeyore hat, an Eagles football or Ice Age watch. But it makes us more determined not to forget these brave kids – some who are physically disabled, some who are mentally impaired, and some who are burdened for life with both.

These children are forgotten no more. Upon hearing our stories and seeing our pictures, the General Managers of the six Accor hotels in Bali , crossing all brands - All Seasons, Novotel, Sofitel and Mercure – took it upon themselves to adopt this one orphanage, and make a real difference for a sustained period of at least two years.

The next time I visit to deliver supplies, I weep when I see the hard work they have all done personally. Manual labour, all with a determination to make their efforts sustainable, and directed at helping the children and their caregivers “help themselves” long-term. A new fridge gleams in the clean and freshly-painted kitchen. It also has food in it. Toilet doors close, plants are used as decorative dividers, and the children, smiling and happy. I’m positive they have grown a few inches. It turns out they have indeed grown: As a group, the Accor Hotel General Managers have organized for a nutritious lunch box to be delivered to each child each day they attend school.

We came bearing four lap-top computers – given kindly by the head of a large Aussie corporation, who upon hearing the story immediately proposed the donation. The children’s eye’s danced when they realized they can learn how to use a computer in the future. But the cost of electricity is high in Indonesia, so a co-sponsor was found for that cost as well. The roof is to be repaired, before it leaks onto the fresh renovations during the wet season, or caves in completely. The leaning wall and sewer are set to be repaired imminently, and the leaks into the playground will cease. An Australian company is generously helping Accor with that cost. The mattresses will be up on bases, and furnished with sheets and pillows.

Other guests have gotten into the infectious spirit of helping, and are advised what the children need, or would consider a treat. At Christmas time, the hotels put a letter in each guest’s room encouraging them to buy an extra present, and then deliver hundreds of packs of much-needed art supplies, stationery and gifts to the orphanage. One guest even bought a new TV at the local hypermart.

You can’t help all the people who are in need in the world. But you can help some, and if we all did that, there might be some happier lives and more nurtured souls."

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1 comment:

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