The island of Bali is unique from the rest of Indonesia in the fact that it has become an international melting pot of cultures from around the world. One may even experience a bit of western culture shock arriving in Bali from somewhere else in Southeast Asia. While these influences can create a vibrant atmosphere for visitors, so many cultures being pushed into one island can make it difficult for Balinese people to maintain their traditions.
The international tourism community in Bali has become more permanently settled over time. Western culture has become so ingrained in certain parts of the island that a few westerners believe that they have the answers to solve the problems facing the Balinese today. We find that these efforts are often not aligned with the true interests of the Balinese people. Because these efforts are organized from a point above local communities, there is a disconnect between the mission of outsiders and the locals their organizations effect.
It is very important to us that our presence is not an intrusion against established local customs. That we are not here to fix problems, but instead give Balinese youth and their families opportunity to grow successfully amongst a rapidly changing society centered on tourism. We give Balinese the tools to succeed without losing their daily traditions, the focus on family and religion, and the gentle kindness of their everyday demeanor that makes Bali, Bali.
We do this through a few different elements of our organization. Before VP Bali grew to where we are today, our founder Kimberley made an effort to create close relationships with the local communities she lived amongst. These connections were strengthened through members of our local staff, who understand community dynamics and know which families need the most help. Instead of putting out a blanket call for help, VP Bali hears the stories of those who can truly benefit from working with us, and creates opportunities specific to their needs and skillset.
We empower our kids and local staff to be proud of their traditions through events such as cultural exchange, cooking classes, and temple ceremonies. Students get to play teacher and teach their volunteers traditions such as Balinese dance and offering making. When our volunteers are included in local temple ceremonies, our local staff helps them respectfully participate.
Kimberley and our staff’s close community ties means that we can more easily see the changing nature of local culture from the ground level, to better understand what holds Balinese people back from achieving their fullest potential. Our team witnesses first-hand the changing aspects of Balinese culture, such as the disappearing presence of traditional customs and rituals in younger generations. With this in mind, we cater the mission and growth of VP Bali to the specific challenges facing local communities today.
Through all of our efforts, we never want Balinese to lose sight of how beautiful their society is without any western influence. That through the opportunities they are provided, they can succeed while still holding onto the traditions that make Balinese culture beautifully unique.