The Travel Diaries: The Bali Bug

Volunteering in Bali was all I hoped for and more. I volunteered at Jodie O’Shea Orphanage and I got the Bali bug. I was only meant to stay a month but ended up staying a lot longer!

I loved it and felt very at home there. I started off living at the Orphanage and I was there for 3 weeks, it was great and you never felt lonely, how can you when there are 66 children living with you?

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It was certainly a difference from when I went to Ghana, it was absolute luxury in comparison. I got to create some great relationships with the kids and it certainly helped me learn their names, safe to say coming to the Orphanage I was thinking ‘how on earth am I going to remember all of these names?’ 5 weeks later I knew them all! They are such wonderful kids, all with their own very different personalities and I felt so privileged that I got to spend my days watching them grow and develop.

Over in the UK you won’t really know much about JoS. It is huge in Australia as it was started in memory of Jodie O’Shea who was an Australian that was killed in the Bali bombings in 2002. The Orphanage opened in 2005 starting with 13 kids and now there are over 100! The children are aged from 2 to 19 and there are quite a few more boys than there are girls. Contrary to what I believed, a lot of the children have families, most coming from an island east of Bali called Sumba, which is very poor. Some of them have had trauma in their lives and some do not have parents at all, but all of them do have some kind of family which they go to visit during the holidays. Without JoS however, they would not get the opportunities they now have, they get to go to school, have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, as well as a wealth of visitors and volunteers coming through wanting to give them love or donate something of some kind. They certainly don’t go without!

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When I arrived one of main concerns was that there really wasn’t much discipline for the children. They go to school 6 days a week from 7am to 1pm and when they come home they were left to do as they please. The main routine was lunch at 1pm, volunteer activities 2pm-4pm, reading time 4pm-5pm, shower time 5pm-6pm and then dinner. There were not a lot of staff and the staff they do have work in the office most of the time or are busy showing visitors around so there is no one left but the volunteers to be the disciplinarians in the afternoons. So, from the success in Ghana I implemented a trusty sticker chart! Stickers are like magic, seriously! The way the kids respond to a sticker chart is amazing and the changes I saw in some of them was incredible and one of the reasons I loved what I was doing so much. After the forth week of doing it they were still obsessed.

During my time at JoS we achieved a lot. We tidied all the rooms for the kids (that was a lot of rooms), came up with loads of different activities and saw the orphanage grow with children. We had days out, many volunteers came and went and we had lots of fun along the way. It wasn’t easy, it was the hardest I have ever worked and I have never sweat so much in my life. I cried a lot, especially when I first saw two children dropped off at the orphanage by their Dad to stay there, because he couldn’t afford to look after them anymore. That was heartbreaking, taking care of a little 3-year-old boy that just wanted his Dad, or Mum, was no easy task, but together we did it.

EDIT

Since my volunteering stint at JoS, I have been back to Bali once to visit the children.It was so good to see them all and see how much they had grown up. It was also pretty nice to be there just as a visitor rather than a volunteer.

Bali is a beautiful country, full of amazing culture, adventures and wonderful people. I will be sure to write another post about all the things you can do out there soon.

If though, you’re considering volunteering abroad, do it. It is such a life changing experience to see and be a part of another culture, learning a language and most of all helping those less fortunate than you. It really puts things into perspective and brings a smile to your face every time you think of it.

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