Monday, December 5, 2011

The Bali Children's Project

Travel to places where children need laughs and inspire them.
Sounds simple enough, yes?
Once we had decided on our project, the work really began. The first hurdle became researching and contacting organizations that would host us. My first Balinese contact was with the The Bali Children's Project who promoted themselves as an organization with volunteer possibilities. Since they are based in the states, they do make an effort to stay on top of e-mails and such, something that only really worked for contacting them. For just about everywhere else it was a combination of phone calls that very quickly made clear the language barrier, or showing up unanounced --armed, of course, with our best charades for can we do a circus show for the children-- and hoping for the best. 

Our inquiry began:
My name is Paula. My partner Tyler and I are teachers in California. We are now visiting Bali through the end of the month. After exploring your website, it seems like your organization has a network of schools throughout the country, and we would be very interested in getting involved. Besides having a background in preschool and elementary teaching, we are both circus teachers.

Our goal is to travel throughout Indonesia and offer a variety of circus theatre shows in local orphanages, schools, shelters, and other non-profit centers that cater to children. If you are interested in providing details of some of your school program locations, we'd be happy to do a quick circus theatre performance for your children. We are, of course, not charging for these presentations.

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Almost immediately I heard back from one of their California based directors who put us in touch with their Balinese coordinator, Eka. Now THIS is were the fun begins. Bless her heart, because what Eka lacks in organization and timeliness she makes up for in smiles and compassion. Our first meeting should have been the first clue, but even so we fell trap to her lack of forward planning more than once. Each time we arranged to meet her, we were given a time, date, and the name of a place... though never an actual address, or really even more than a vague description of the general vicinity in which to begin our search. 

On the first day we tromped off on what should have been a 15 minute drive to the main office of BCP. When we arrived an hour later we discovered that Eka had already left to a province in the far NW of the island-- 5 hours away. We set out up the mountain on our slick black motor bike armed with a map, two very small backpacks, big smiles, and big time hope that this long-shot would work out. This, like every coming appointment, was an adventure of driving in circles, repeatedly asking for directions, and finally finding out she'd sent us to a completely different part of the province than she actually wanted us. Near the top of the volcano we got caught in a rainstorm that ran us off the road, struggled to find edible food, and ended up in an $8 a night homestay with a million dollar view.

When we finally made it to rural Munduk two days later, we found "Sanda House" hidden away down a dirt walking path in the middle of a rice field. When she arrived an hour late, the look of shock on her face that we'd actually found it was priceless. We now know that "just drive to Munduk and ask someone" is never a good sign. Thank goodness for Tyler's gift with maps and orientation. Anyone who knows me can attest to my lack of any sense of direction.

Ty and his team at Sanda House study our route to the various schools

On the brighter (and less off road adventure) side, once we'd sat down with Eka to form a plan the tour began. Through the BCP we performed in four kindergartens that were all set-up and supported by the organization. These are all in rural villages where the emphasis on family value seems as high --and higher-- than the poverty level. We'd arrive to be greeted by wide-eyed school children all running around in matching school uniforms. Now, in most parts of the world, Kindergarteners are small... but Indonesian kindergarteners are tiny. Over the course of the 30-minute performance, their looks of timid curiosity would evolve into smiles and then full on laughter. Though in many of the classes the children started off shy and almost skeptical of the oddly dressed westerners, by the end they were more than ready to join in.

And join in they did.

BCP Kindergarten; Goblek, Munduk

The rice field across from Sanda House

About the BCP: "For more than twelve years the Bali Children's Project has been quietly touching the lives of young people and their families. It grew from a simple desire to give back to the Balinese people, as a gesture of gratitude, something tangible in return for the joy and delight their warm welcome and rich culture have given to us. BCP programs are designed to integrate the demands of economic progress with the island’s traditional values." Over the years, they have created rural kindergartens and pre-schools, provided ongoing teacher training, provided classroom materials and enhancements to the schools they support, and more. They are always looking for volunteers who are independent and adaptable, self-motivated and energetic. Particularly welcome are those with special skills and who are able to stay for a prolonged visit. Experienced teachers, particularly those with ESL and Montessori training are always in demand, as are health and dental professionals.


  1. Sounds awesome - what a great experience both for you and the children!

  2. Please find me a kindergarten in Bali and I will come to teach and visit
    All the best from Japan
    Here's our website
    or you can contact my friend assistant and arrange with him, which he is lived in Bali
    His name : agus P
    Phone # : 081 289021337