Madalina Bucur is 26 years old and she is from Romania where she graduated from the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Bucharest. Currently she is a work-study volunteer in Indonesia where she teaches English and computer classes to unprivileged children from rural poor areas. She dreams of having her own nonprofit one day. She is still deciding if this could be a home for old people or for children, or maybe both.
Why did you decide volunteer with International Humanity Foundation in Indonesia?
Volunteering is something I have always wanted to do. I started volunteering in Romania with Red Cross when I was a highschool student. I helped with the crisis relief intervention during the floods in 2005. Since then I knew that humanitarian aid should be part of my future interests.
International Humanity Foundation gave me the opportunity to volunteer also abroad. I choose this NGO because of its transparency. The NGO is run entirely by volunteers, including the center directors which means no one is actually paid.
So we know for sure that all the donations are exclusively for the children. Their motto is "Pass it on".
We've got the chance to have a good education and now we have the chance to share our knowledge with less fortunate children. It's been already one month and a half since I arrived in Indonesia. I will be staying for 5 more months.
What surprised you most on the trip?
I am sure that there will be so many things to be surprised about during the next 5 months. But so far, what has really gotten my attention is the people and their peaceful thoughts.
When you hear about Indonesia you don't think it's such a safe place. You expect "danger" to come out from the corner. But it's nothing like that.
Here I feel protected by their gods. I enjoy every conversation with a local and everything new that I can learn about their culture. They are always happy, no matter what.
I hope I will leave Indonesia being at least half as happy as they are. I want to enjoy the little things. And keep in mind it's a work in progress.
Who was the most memorable local you met?
Ketut. Two other volunteers and I had free time and went for a two-day trip to see two of the most important temples in Bali (Uluwuatu and Tanah Lot ). We took the Bemo (the local public mini bus) to another village from where we were supposed to take a big bus to Kuta (the city near the temples).
While we were waiting for the bus, a guy approached and asked us if instead of waiting for two hours for the bus we want to go with him. His car was full of children (nephews and daughter) and there was still some space for us too.
We agreed to pay him the same amount as we would have paid for the bus. In the end, he become our guide. He helped us find a cheap hotel, and he showed us the city.
He picked us up the next day from the hotel and took us to see both temples and also drove us back to the place we were living. He drove all day, but he was happy to do this without expecting anything in exchange.
So we had a two-day guide for free and made a friend to remember. He said that if we were volunteering in his country to educate the children, the least he could do was show us his country.
Tell us about one really fun moment of the trip.
There were many funny moments. At least now they seem funny. Showering with the frogs everyday, waking up at 6 am to go to the toilet and encountering a baby cow in your yard (where from?).
I also enjoyed going to a traditional Indonesian market early in the morning, on a rainy day and discovering the dog who was supposed to be sleeping at home (there was a puppy who strayed into our center and since then she lives with us until someone would want to adopt her) in the public bus.
Being a foreigner with a puppy in the market makes you a star among the locals. It didn't happen to me, but to my colleague. My contribution to the story was just laughing when she came back really annoyed that she couldn't buy anything because she had to take care of the puppy. Plenty of time for more funny stories I guess.
Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?
It's starting to change actually. The fear of the unknown is becoming less and less. and this is because I realize that although the distance separates us from one continent to another, we are all the same.
We love in the same way. We smile in the same way. We help in the same way and we pray in the same way( I don't want to offend anyone by saying this, but I just mean we are all more similar than we realize).
Although at first sight, everything seems different from what we are taught, in the end, what is inside us is what brings us closer. And I prefer to think that "thing" inside us is love.
I must say, I am in love of people, no matter what age, sex, nationality and what political views they might have. And this is not a cliche. It's what I really discover every day here.