22 May

Uniquely Ubud: Living in an International Melting Pot

In March 2017, Bali was named TripAdvisor’s #1 Destination in the World – its no secret that people from all over the world are flocking to “the island of gods” for their next vacation. The south coasts are packed with tourists from far and wide soaking up the Indonesian sun. But here in Ubud, an international melting pot has been brewing for decades, making it a unique place to call home for our VP Bali volunteers.

When you arrive in Ubud, you will immediately notice signs of an established and vibrant international community from one major element – the FOOD! Craving a quesadilla and marg? Look no further than Taco Casa and La Cantina. Missing your favorite French pastries? Be sure to get to Le Moulin early for their famous almond croissants. In the mood for a sushi night with your fellow volunteers? Just a ways from your homestay, head to Toro for any roll your heart desires. Let us not forget every volunteer’s weakness: PIZZA! Buona Sera, Umah Pizza, Pizza Bagus, and Mamma Mia – you’ll never run out of options for this comfort food.

Ubud is also known as an world destination for bright minds to come together and create fresh ideas! International conferences such as TEDxUbud hold frequent events with inspiring speakers from Indonesia and all over the world. Over the years, Ubud has become a place for people from all over the world to collaborate in paradise – you would never guess how many businesses are started here!

VP Bali is happy to contribute to the unique Ubud community, with volunteers coming from all over the world to add a little spice to both our classroom and our town! We believe a huge strength of our organization comes from the sharing of cultures and ideas from not only our international volunteers, but also our local staff.

We love to have our volunteers share their customs in the classroom, giving our kids the opportunity to understand the world beyond their island. In return, our kids love to share their customs with the volunteers! Our weekly cultural exchange gives our students an opportunity to role reverse, and proudly teach our volunteers their traditions such as Balinese dance, making offerings, and learning traditional music instruments. Our local staff is here to help when things get tough! 

That being said, so many international influences can make it difficult for local communities to hold onto their traditions, especially living amongst a rapidly growing tourist society. Our close community ties combined with our power team of local staff and trainees mean that we never lose sight of what makes Bali unique and beautiful in the first place – its people.

With everything we do at VP Bali, between all of the cultures blending together to foster new ideas, we always uphold the utmost respect for local culture, traditions, and importance of Family.

19 May

The Best Night of the Week

Over the last four years, VP Bali has grown in numbers, expanded our mission, and focused in on a clear vision for both our volunteers and the Balinese people we aim to empower. Something that has never changed however, is how close our volunteers become with each other in such a short period of time. This may have something to do with one of our favorite long-standing traditions – Thursday night dinners!

At the end of every week and volunteer farewell ceremony, the volunteers whose time is ending with us pick a restaurant for a VP Bali farewell dinner. Volunteers and staff together get to see each other out of their school attire and celebrate the friendships they have made during their volunteer placement.

With no class on Fridays, our volunteers often leave early to take advantage of their three-day weekends to explore as much of beautiful Bali as possible! This leaves Thursday nights in Ubud to bring together everyone as a unit and spend time with each other outside of class. Especially for those who teach in our two different schools or live in our two different homestays, Thursday dinners are a way for our volunteers to share their favorite stories from the classroom over the last week!
When our volunteers come to Bali, they not only get the benefit of learning about the island’s culture, but also are exposed to different cultures from all over the world! It’s not rare to hear our volunteers at dinner teaching each other phrases in their home languages, or even helping each other dance to their favorite music from their country!
From your first Monday morning volunteer meeting, you are placed in an international community of friends from near and far. You will leave Indonesia with not only a community in Bali to go back to, but a new group of friends stretched all over the world!
Safe to say Thursdays are our favorite night of the week. We love to bringing all of our staff and volunteers together to have a little extra fun, and to celebrate our departing volunteers together as a family!
12 May

Taking the Classroom to the Pool

Last month, the VP Bali Family had a very important lesson outside of our English classes! This time, our founder, Kimberley, got to play coach when a few young members of our trainees needed a pointers to help pass an upcoming swimming test at their local school. While passing this test is mandatory for all students at the school, there are no classes in or out of the pool to help students learn about swimming. After our last class of the week, the team got to work, with Kimberley leading the pack in the pool through different exercises like paddling and learning to relax and float.

The fact that our trainees needed swimming lessons just for the sake of passing of an test represented something much bigger in our eyes: the idea that education was an end goal, instead of a journey. It was an example of the Indonesia’s focus on checking benchmarks, rather than personal development through learning lifelong skills.

When there’s a difference between traditional methods and the creative learning techniques we use at VP Bali, we try to provide fun opportunities for our students and staff to learn what they don’t in their formal school. Not only opportunities for better education, but also for safer working environments, fair salaries, and community development.

Our goal is to help our students grow into a changing society without losing the traditions and values that make their culture so unique and beautiful.
Our vision of education as a journey, not an end goal, is seen every day through the fun activities we use during our after school English classes. While we follow an ESL curriculum, we constantly aim for fun and innovative ways for our students to stay attentive, focused, and most of all have fun. We want our English classes to be something they look forward to every day after their normal school hours.
After four years of growth, VP Bali’s mission is no longer to just improve English skills in Bali’s youth. We want our students and local staff to take home what they gain from the classroom, to bring these valuable skills and life lessons into their everyday lives. Even as a small organization, days like this when our students and local staff get to learn outside of the classroom, not just for the sake of passing a test, is what makes our community of learning so special.
19 Mar

Beyond Volunteering: Cultural Exchange

When you volunteer at Volunteer Programs Bali, you won’t get to just teach English, but you are also able to learn the real Balinese art, culture, and traditions.

Every Wednesday we conduct our Cultural Exchange program. The volunteers can choose which activity they would like to do. They can choose between Balinese dancing, carrying an offering box (on top of the head!), making Balinese offerings, practicing Bahasa Indonesia and Balinese language, or learning to play Balinese instruments.

These activities are part of the daily routine of a Balinese, but can be very challenging for foreigners to learn!

This means talented and skilled Balinese staff and students are the teachers, and our volunteers become the students.
Talk about switching roles!
It is great to see how much fun the volunteers have whilst practicing. Some of our volunteers are natural talents and we honestly think some of them must have been Balinese in their previous lives. Carrying a box on your head requires a lot of balance and patience. This cultural exchange truly shows how dedicated our volunteers are to learning Balinese culture, especially when the boxes always fall off of their head!
On the other hand, our volunteers need a lot of rhythm when we teach them how to play the Balinese drums or the Gamelan.
It may look easy from the audience, but getting the right beat going isn’t as easy as you think!
While Balinese offerings is normally a woman’s job in Bali, that doesn’t mean that our male volunteers can’t learn as well. And some of them are very good at it too!
For volunteers who are staying with us for a longer period and get to practice weekly, they get to be almost as good as a real Balinese dancer by the end of their placement.
We are always very grateful and blessed to have such talented and patient staff and students that are willing to teach our volunteers about their local tradition and invite them into their culture.
Just for fun…
Can you imagine your family and friends’ reaction when you carry your luggage on top of your head as you walk out through the arrival gate?!
19 Mar

Cremation for Anik’s mother

Life cycle rites are very important moments for the Balinese. It starts with ceremonies for an unborn baby and it ends with the last ceremony of life, the cremation. It is very important that this is done well according to Balinese culture, as there is a strong believe in the afterlife and reincarnation. Balinese people aren’t easily stressed, but the one thing that can create stress is the thought of not being able to afford the cremation of your parents and other close family. Cremations can financially ruin poor and middle class families who, by tradition, must provide a suitable cremation ceremony for their loved ones which can cost thousands of dollars. When you are a farmer earning only a hundreds of dollars a year it can mean selling your land or not putting your kids in school.

Fortunately, many Balinese villages have adopted the practice of ngaben massal (mass cremations), where all of the people who die over a larger period of time (approximately 5 years) are cremated at the same time. This mass cremation helps because it allows richer families to subsidize poor ones and allows every family to perform their sacred obligations to their loved ones.

Anik is one of the students of Volunteer Programs Bali. Her mother died two years ago and that time the family didn’t have enough money to have a cremation ceremony for her. This year, a ngaben massal took place in her village so the family was finally able to have the cremation ceremony for her that they have been waiting for.Even though the cremation is much cheaper when joining at a mass cremation, it is not without costs. As Anik comes from a very poor family, they still didn’t have enough money to fund the whole ceremony.

This is where Volunteer Programs Bali stepped in. As VP Bali always tries to help and support the community and their students, the founder and local staff visited Anik at her home to hand a donation for her family. Not only our local organization decided to support her, all the students of her class also decided to collect money to give to the family to support for this expensive and important ceremony.

Anik and her family were very touched by this gesture and so grateful for all the support that they received from VP Bali and her fellow students. Thanks to this the family was able to arrange a beautiful cremation ceremony for Anik’s mother.

19 Mar

Kintamani Landslide Disaster Relief Donation

Bali knows two seasons, the dry season and the wet season. During the wet season it can rain very heavily. Last month Bali experienced a very heavy rainy time and due to these heavy rains some areas in the mountain area of North Bali got hit by severe landslides. Landslides are common in Indonesia during the monsoon season, but are relatively rare on the tourist island of Bali.

One of the villages that got hit is Songan, a village located in the Kintamani area, North Bali. In Songan the landslides were so bad that twelve people didn’t survive this tragedy and a lot of people got injured. Besides the physical injuries and losses, many people in the village lost everything they got, their home, their vehicles and their shops, everything got destroyed. Apart from the disaster management aid (army, police and volunteers) who came to help looking for survivors right after it happened, the village is now totally depending on donations and help from other communities in Bali.

When VP Bali heard about this tragedy, we immediately decided that we needed to help as an humanity act. Community is very important for VP Bali and therefore we wanted to reach out to other communities as well. Even though Songan village is quite far away from the community of VP Bali, when there is such a terrible event happening in another community in Bali, we feel the urge to step up and help this community through this difficult time.

Last Sunday the team of VP Bali and some of the students of VP Bali visited the area in Kintamani. But we don’t come empty handed. Due to the fact that so many people lost their home and their source of income, VP Bali decided to donate food to the victims of the landslides disaster. We donated food such as rice, eggs, noodles and snacks. These are all basic foods that everyone needs and it can be easily divided among the community.

We also gave the students the opportunity to contribute to the donation and they were so excited to join the team on this day. Even though Sunday is a day off for most people, the team of VP Bali and the students were more than happy to go and spend the day together with the VP Bali family and do something meaningful to the other communities of Bali.

After visiting the village the team went for lunch and spend some nice time together by the beautiful Lake Batur.

It is amazing to see how involved our local staff is with other communities and how eager our students are to help as well. It is very inspiring to see such young people caring so much about others. That’s what it’s all about!

Thank you everyone for taking the time to joining us in #givingback!

 

 

19 Mar

Meet Eka – our new helper at Program Ubud

Meet Eka. Eka is one of the students at Volunteer Programs Bali. Eka is originally from East Bali but lives in Ubud area with her parents. Eka comes from a farmer’s family and moved from East Bali to live closer to Ubud on land that her parents were able to borrow. Eka’s family is very poor. Eka started working from a very young age to provide for her family. Eka goes to regular school but outside school hours she has to work to make some money. Eka cleans the neighbors house sometimes for a small fee, or she helps her parents in the ricefields. Eka is very motivated to learn English so she can work in tourism when she is older. Eka hopes to speak English well enough to have a job so she can make enough money to take care of her parents.

Stories like Eka’s are not uncommon in Bali. Even though Bali is one of the most popular tourist destination in the world, many of the Balinese are still living in extreme poverty. In the remote areas of, for example, East Bali, the residents are very poor and most villages lack education, access to clean water and even electricity. Many children must walk for kilometers to go to school. Due to the lack of jobs and opportunities, men from the villages must also leave to find jobs in the tourism sector, leaving their wives and children. However, not all men are able to do so as not everyone has the English skills to work in the tourism sector.

 

At Volunteer Programs Bali, we strongly believe that every child in Bali may grow and learn in a safe environment, that they can use their talents to provide for their families.When we first heard about Eka’s situation we immediately decided that we wanted to help her and her family. We just didn’t know how yet. Eka is a very enthusiastic student and really eager to learn. However, unfortunately her family’s financial situation didn’t allow her to focus 100% on her study as she has to work outside school hours.That is where VP Bali jumped in. How could we help Eka financially, and also support her in her dream to learn English? Yes, indeed, we offered her a job.
Since last month, Eka works at the program of VP Bali as a school helper. This means she helps preparing the classes, the class material and she helps cleaning up after the classes have finished. She also helps by doing the offerings daily in the school. In this way, Eka could make the extra money that she otherwise would have made by cleaning or working in the ricefields, and at the same time she could join the classes of VP Bali.Besides that, by helping preparing everyday, she picks up a lot of extra English vocabulary and she learns a lot from planning and organizing.
Eka is very grateful for this opportunity and takes her job very seriously. We see her grow everyday and we are very happy that we could make this happen!
19 Feb

Mass cremation in the village

Life cycle rites are very important moments for the Balinese. It starts with ceremonies for an unborn baby and it ends with the last ceremony of life, the cremation. It is very important that this is done well according to Balinese culture, as there is a strong believe in the afterlife and reincarnation. Balinese people aren’t easily stressed, but the one thing that can create stress is the thought of not being able to afford the cremation of your parents and other close family.  Cremations can financially ruin poor and middle class families who, by tradition, must provide a suitable cremation ceremony for their loved ones which can cost thousands of dollars.  When you are a farmer earning only a hundreds of dollars a year it can mean selling your land or not putting your kids in school.

 

Fortunately, many Balinese villages have adopted the practice of ngaben massal (mass cremations), where all of the people who die over a larger period of time (approximately 5 years)  are cremated at the same time.  This mass cremation helps because it allows richer families to subsidize poor ones and allows every family to perform their sacred obligations to their loved ones. Often the banjar (Balinese community) also supports this big event by helping the families who can’t afford the whole process but only a part of it.

 

Last September, a ngaben massal took place in the village where one of our programs is located and where the founder of VP Bali lives. At Volunteer Programs Bali, we put high value on community.

Therefore, during the days of preparations for this ceremony, we have been actively involved. A few days before the cremation ceremony took place, we have been cleaning the whole area of the village, together with all our students. It this way, Volunteer Programs Bali showed respect for the village to help them making the area rubbish-free before the big ceremony would start.

 

Volunteer Programs Bali supported the village by handing a donation to the village head so he could use that money to support the families for the ceremony. Also sugar, coffee and rice was donated to the members of the community.


Besides that, our local staff and founder have been attending the ceremony as well to show our respect. The local community greatly appreciated our efforts to be involved in their cultural activities.

It was very special to experience such wonderful and important event from up close and we are grateful that the community gave us this opportunity.

19 Feb

VP Bali and traditional Balinese clothes

In Bali there is no day going by without a ceremony somewhere. It can be a temple ceremony, a ceremony in a house, a wedding, a cremation or another life cycle ceremony. Every ceremony goes with many colorful offerings and decorations in either the temple or the house. Balinese are also dressed in their traditional clothing when going to a ceremony, whether it is attending one, helping in the preparations or just coming as a visitor.

 

As you probably have seen around Bali, Balinese are dressed very beautifully when going to a ceremony. Women wear a very colorful kebaya (a traditional blouse-dress often made from lace), a sarong (a length of fabric wrapped around the waist) and a selendang (a scarf to put around the waist). These three items are always color matched and women follow the recent trends and fashion regarding color and model.

 

The staff of Volunteer Programs Bali are also often attending ceremonies. As community is of utmost importance for the organization, it is more than often that the staff is invited to a ceremony. This can be a temple ceremony in the village of one of the programs, a wedding ceremony of one of the student family’s or a bigger temple festival in the area of the schools or office. The staff usually goes to these ceremonies together, as a team.

 

Volunteer Programs Bali decided that it would be nice if the girls are dressed in the same colors when going to a ceremony. Therefore we went shopping! Going to a kebaya and sarong shop is always exciting for Balinese women. If you ask an average woman in Bali how many different kebaya’’s they have, they probably can’t answer that as it will be so many!

Same as in modern fashion, trends are changing very quickly and it is of course important that women are wearing an up to date color and model.

It was a feast to shop with the staff, there are so many colors to choose from! Fabric is bought by the meter and the kebaya will be made by a tailor of your own choice and you can decide the model yourself.

 

For going to a temple ceremony the prefered color to wear is white, therefore we choose one white kebaya. We also chose an orange one, for when going to a house ceremony, a wedding or other social activity in the community.

A matching sarong and scarf and we were ready!

 

The staff was very happy with their new outfits. After going to the tailor we did a small fashion show at our founders house and we can’t wait to attend a ceremony together in our matching outfits!

07 Feb

The story of Tutik

One of the staff members of Volunteer Programs Bali is Tutik Kastari who works as a local coordinator in the schools. She is the youngest local staff member of the VP Bali family. She is always doing a good job and is always able to help someone when needed. She is born in the Gianyar district, not far from Ubud, and still lives there with her family.
Her story began when she started to participate the free English afternoon classes of Volunteer Program Bali next to her regular school in the morning. She wanted to improve her English skills so that she can use that knowledge for in the future.
Tutik went to the classes with much pleasure and she developed a close bond with her classmates and the local staff members who were always present at the schools. After a few years she was not only participating the classes anymore but she started to work for Volunteer Programs Bali as a helper in the schools and assisted in any way as needed.
Currently, Tutik is studying in the morning hours at an University in Denpasar to become an English teacher. In the afternoons she is still working at Volunteer Programs Bali as a local coordinator. Her job is to make the classes more fun and educative, assist the volunteers in the classes and making sure all the programs are running well.
Tutik was here since the beginning of the program and she has seen a lot of progress in her students who have followed the English classes. She is really thankful that VP Bali offers free English classes and that they try anything to improve the English skills of the Balinese children.
As you will understand, Tutik has a very busy daily schedule. Studying and working are not the only things she does in a day. When she finishes work around 7 PM she goes home and helps her mother with packaging crackers since her mother has a small business and sells all crackers at the morning market. A big compliment for your perseverance Tutik!
Education is really expensive for most of the Indonesian people and that is why most of them do not have the money to apply for university. Therefore VP Bali is paying the tuition for Tutik’s university as support, since her parents cannot afford her tuition. At Volunteer Programs Bali, it is very important to help each other out when someone of the staff members or someone of the local community is dealing with difficult circumstances. By doing this she is able to go to university and to improve her English teacher skills.
The VP Bali family hopes that she will make her dream come true to become an English teacher. Tutik, we are very blessed with you as one of our staff members and we hope that you will stay a long time with the VP Bali family!
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