My name is Emelie, I am 28 years old and from Scandinavia. I have been a volunteer with IHF in Bali for four months now, and I am glad to be able to say that I still have several more months to come. After attending graduate school I wanted to have new experiences and see the world before I would be ready to settle down and start a career at home and so I looked for volunteer opportunities and later traveled to Bali.
IHF Bali Center is an education center, where we provide free English, math and computer classes for children from the surrounding areas, but the center is so much more than just a place for classes. The centers role in the local community is quite important as this is an open and safe space where children, parents and volunteers from different faiths and backgrounds can all meet and exchange experiences.
Children come here to play when they don’t have classes, and they ask for help with homework and studying for exams, and they come here to read our books too. Parents help out in class, or just sit around and talk and at times they have helped me with translations and even teaching me how to cook Indonesian food!
Our volunteers can teach, interact with the children, pick up some language, learn about the local culture, how a NGO works and most importantly have fun while helping underprivileged children improve their prospects.
In my role with IHF I have not only committed to educating the centers students, I am also overseeing the running of this center together with another volunteer. This includes managing local staff, registering new students, budgeting and assisting our volunteers. I am also working online to perform administrative tasks for the organization on a universal scale. These tasks involve assisting volunteers in making travel arrangements and coordinating these, editing the foundations newsletter and editing our curriculums and many other things too. All in all, this leaves me pretty busy, but also very motivated.
The best part of being here is getting to interact with the children. Playing with the children can be so much fun! Teaching is really challenging, and it allows me to grow too. At times we arrange special workshops on anything from personal hygiene to painting coconuts, and being able to transfer some of my knowledge to these children feels great. Before I arrived at the IHF Bali center I had already been volunteering with another NGO on the island for six months, and so I had already adapted to and learnt about the local culture. I started studying bahasa Indonesian when I first arrived in Bali and since I am communicating with locals on a daily basis I am now proficient in bahasa Indonesia.
I have also been lucky enough to experience the local culture in a way that most foreign visitors are not able to, and that has been eye-opening. I would say that I am probably learning just as much as the children are – if not more, and my new language skills are just one example of that.
I was lucky to be able to be eased in to the work here the way I was, but anyone with a fair amount of determination would be able to learn the ropes here. New volunteers are given a lot of support through detailed documents outlining the work to be done, from our online teams and from other volunteers on location. IHF also careful to task volunteers with assignments based on their preferences and experiences – as well as on our current needs, so even though we are all volunteers running the organization we largely have the right person in place for the right task.
Another great thing is that this organization is very open, and we, the volunteers manage everything together as one team online. This means I can see how every part of the organization operates, not only does this invoke a lot of confidence in the organization, but it also provides insights for me that are invaluable in a future career. In my position at IHF I have been able to do things that I would not normally be able to do in any other given job.
For example I have been organizing a fundraising event which requires a lot of coordinating, reaching out to local business as well as creating promotional materials, and as I have never done anything similar before it has been a demanding but exciting experience. Being given a lot responsibility and having to do things I have never done before can at times be slightly intimidating, but as all volunteers with IHF are in the same position we help and support each other, making the work easier, and also more fun.
Before I embarked on this journey I actually didn’t have a lot of expectations, I was just looking to help in any way I can and learn as much as possible while doing it. IHF has proven to be a great match for me as I truly have been able to learn, while helping children in an important and significant way.