When traveling in underdeveloped countries, the poverty and difficulty can blind you to the rays of goodness and love that shine among the people in spite of their conditions.
During our stay in Bali, we had several opportunities to serve, and on one afternoon we were lucky enough to spend our time with the kids and staff of Bali Kids, a remarkable, courageous organization which provides an orphanage and a medical center for disadvantaged kids.
We arrived and were welcomed by Robert, a passionate man who has been involved in the development of Bali Kids for years. He was joined by a little boy and his sister, residents of the orphanage. The other kids were at school. Robert was a wealth of knowledge about the history and work of Bali Kids. The three of them gave us a tour of the brand new orphanage and medical center. It was beautiful and so thoughtfully built for the kids who live there and the others who are treated at the medical center.
Our first stop was the dental exam room, with newly donated dental chairs and equipment. However, something important was missing: the dentist. They don’t have one. Dentists in Indonesia are paid by the government, which gives them stability and benefits. Bali Kids can promise a dentist consistent work – in fact, they are having to turn local villagers away – but they can’t match government pay.
I asked how much they needed to hire a dentist to run the clinic, imagining it would be thousands. Robert said they could hire a full-time Indonesian dentist for $800/month. The law requires the dentist be a citizen.
Next, Robert took us to the main building, a medical facility on one side and an orphanage on the other. The kids who live here receive medical attention not available in their local villages or orphanages. They serve up to 60 children at a time. When we were there, preparations were being made to receive new patients that would arrive in the medical van that travels out to villages, treating kids or transporting them to or from the Bali Kids campus.
Unfortunately, time didn’t permit us to travel to the villages in the van, but we plan to do that on our next visit to Bali Kids.
Soon, the other children began arriving home from school. Robert and our two little tour guides (who had become glued to John and Riley) began introducing us to the kids. Many of the them are learning English and were excited to practice the language with us.
They showed us their rooms, which featured four bunk beds, two small desks, a wardrobe for the kids to share, and a bathroom. It was fun to see how each kid personalized their space, and they took turns showing us their stuff. These were deluxe accommodations by Bali standards, and you could see the pride and joy of each of the kids.
Eventually, they led us down to the commons area where we got to play and talk with them. Riley grabbed his guitar and played some music with the older kids. Alli got huge laughs from the group using the photo morphing app on her iPad. I colored with a budding artist who scooped up the color crayons and coloring book we brought, and John played cards and blew bubbles with another group.
We also enjoyed a performance the kids were rehearsing for their monthly appearance on one of the big cruise ships that comes into port.
Most of the kids, who range in age from 5 – 18 years old, have lived at Bali Kids for years. They have formed tight bonds and life-long friendships. Indonesian law does not allow adoption, so the kids will remain here until they age out (at 18) or until their families become stable enough to support them, which seldom happens. Children whose families live in nearby villages often enjoy visits together.
When kids age out, Bali Kids invites them to move into another home for graduates. Still considered part of the family, they are always welcomed back to the main facility for meals and activities. Bali Kids helps them find jobs, advanced education and whatever else they need.
As we played with the kids, I was struck by the safe, loving, empowering environment Bali Kids has created for these children. It is a stark contrast to Alli’s Russian orphanage.
The kids have dreams for the future. One brilliant boy we met plans to study law. Many graduates attend universities around the world, and others train for the hospitality industry. Nothing is taken for granted by these children. They know they are fortunate to be able to live at Bali Kids and to be given the education, food and clothing they need.
Even though we saw only a small glimpse of all that Bali Kids does, we were so impressed. We were too busy having fun to take many photos, but you can visit their site to see some great pictures they have taken. www.BaliKids.org.
While you are on their site, make sure to check out their wish list. Three needs they mentioned to us include:
1 A dentist for their dental clinic – $800/month
2 Sponsors to pay for Komen English language lessons – $30/month/child
3 Medical costs for a transfusion for one of their residents. They have found a donor match, but now need to cover the cost of his trip and his donor’s trip to Thailand to perform the medical treatment. Check with Bali Kids directly for more details and specific costs.
The afternoon we spent with Bali Kids wasn’t long enough for any of us. We went away feeling like we wanted to do more for them and for others.
In addition to the children living at Bali Kids, the organization touches the lives of over 7,000 more children each year. The impact spreads as more and more people are touched by the love and concern Bali Kids showers on the people of Bali.
This is a courageous organization that boldly helps and supports a very special population of children and families. You can help them do it on your next visit to Bali. I guarantee it will be a life-changing experience.
Wear your sunglasses, though, because the rays of goodness and love shine very bright at Bali Kids.
P.S. If you are heading to Bali, please shoot me an email. Riley wants to send over one of his guitars to a boy at the orphanage, but the import tax would be horrendous, so it would be best if it was hand-delivered.