Thursday, January 26, 2012

As fate would have it, one disappointment led to something incredible

Making a wrong turn on our way to the Wisma Anak Anak Harapan orphanage that I wrote about in my last post, we quite accidentally found Panti Asuhan Benih Harapan or Seeds of Hope Children's Home. Five minutes over and two streets away from one huge disappointment we found a place that really does go above and beyond to create a home experience that is balanced, loving, and supportive-- and bursting at the seams with children.

We showed up on our motorbike, dressed to perform, pointing at a map while asking (in pidgin Indonesian) if we were at the right place. We were not. We were, however, immediately surrounded by children who very much wanted to see what the Mustached Clown could do. He has that effect on people, especially kids. The matron of the home, Sandra - a woman we would come to know and admire- informed us that although they would be delighted to have us come back and perform the following day, the dozen shy faces peeking at us from inside the beaten up minibus had been promised a trip to the beach.

Just a few of the many friendly faces that greeted us when we arrived
We left reluctantly with plans to return the following day. Now, there were a few dramatic things that happened between the day we left Panti Asuhan Benih Harapan and the day we finally returned, but I'll spare you the details... suffice it to say I have some great scars to forever remind me of the day I flipped a motorbike into an Indonesian sewage ditch. We did finally make it back about three days later and spent the afternoon with one of the most humbly profound people I'll ever meet. Sandra told us stories that all at once provoked laughter, tears, anger, compassion, and thought; these stories eventually gave us a better understanding of the Indonesian culture and the unending/self-sacrificing love of some parents. These stories will guide me through my own ventures into the nonprofit social justice world, make me a more compassionate person, and probably make me cry every time I recall them.

We did perform a modified audience participatory clown show for the children, bandaged hands and all. Notice I am only hiding in the back of pictures from that day -- you're welcome. ;-) Kids danced with us, performed feats of strength and acrobatic challenge, and, of course, juggled with us. The shakey, shakey routine was a favorite all across the island of Bali.

My, what long arms you have. Is that a clown hiding behind you?
You'll notice I don't mention her husband much, but this is only because he didn't speak English. Therefore most of our communication was through Sandra. In a twist of fate, it turns out that he is the brother of the woman running the pitiful orphanage around the corner. Yes, this wonderland we had stumbled upon was opened by the brother of the "Cinderalla's Stepmother of a woman" running Wisma Anak Anak Harapan in reaction to what happened there after their parents' passing. [Refer back to my last post if you're looking for an explanation.] What we learned from all of this is that sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree. Here we are faced with two siblings running very similar children's homes in the same neighborhood-- but with a world of difference in the environment they are maintaining within them.

It was obvious to us from the website and our time there that Wisma Anak Anak Harapan is being well taken care of by a variety of church organizations from abroad. For Sandra's Panti Asuhan Benih Harapan there seemed to be support, but not nearly on the same scale. When we asked her about financial support and donations from abroad, she shared with us that there is one particular parish abroad (I believe in Europe) that collects donations enough every month to send all of her 80 children to school. Her best line "I am just a good beggar." This from a saint who has traveled, lectured, and educated for decades with the simple goal of being able to maintain a home for her adopted and extended family.

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