In December 2016, I went to Bali as part of a leadership tour run by Learning Options. On each day, I wrote a summary of my day, focusing on a major theme. To learning more about my tour, read here, or check out my adventures from Day 1 and 2.
On day five of our tour of Bali, I woke up at 4am and basked in the cold air that filled my room. What a change from the camp that was!
We started our day by heading to the Habitat for breakfast. It’s only about 200m from our villas, but the stroll was enough to show us that Bali was truly waking up – probably for the sake of the tourists. I had some delicious pancakes with dark chocolate sauce, strawberries and caramelised banana, AND, most importantly, a REAL coffee. If that wasn’t a magical comfort, I don’t know what else is.
After breakfast, Fabrice taught us about the languages of Bali. Rather than take notes on some scrap paper, I wrote them in my personal journal – an extension of my own soul. We learned that Bali ad 706 languages that were spoken across its 17,000 islands. We learned about the influences of Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, English and Dutch invasions on the language. It seems that at the time of Indonesia’s independence, its founders realised that this new nation needed a common language; and so Bahasa was born. Amazingly, it’s one of the easiest languages to learn, with people being able to fluently pick it up in 6 months, just like its founders imagined. This lesson, along with a quick lesson on Indonesian and Balinese culture really stirred a sense of familiarity in me. Like Arabic culture, a duality exists in the culture where blunt questions are not at all offensive, but saving face is paramount and creates a sensitive spot. I suppose it’s all in the way you perceive a situation.
Kopernik was one of the most amazing concepts I’ve heard about. Essentially, this non-profit organisation takes incredible, life changing technologies and distributes them to remote communities around the developing world. You can read more about how their model works here, but essentially, when a great new idea is brought to them, the idea is brought to them, they assess the idea, get it funded (through crowd funding and donations), distribute the technology to local partners who sell it in a way that suits the local community, and then reinvests the money into more ideas. Simple, right?
The technologies we’re talking about here include water filtration systems and solar lighting, which means that their work brings both water and light to the remotest of communities. Rather than studying using kerosene, for example, kids can rely on clean solar energy. Just incredible
I was blown away by the sort of work being done by this group. They used the model that I have adopted, which is to basically take a great sounding idea, collect data around it and then take it forward to seek funding. They use open-source publishing for all their data so that anyone can make use of it. They also undertake ‘unmet needs’ research, to truly understands what would bring these communities the most benefit and drive a ‘Wonder Women’ program to empower women to increase their income while selling solar lights, filers and clean stoves for their communities. So like Tupperware parties, but world-saving.
Again; for these guys, it was all about your perspective. You could look at an issue that a community is grappling with and try to implement ideas that souuuund like they could work, wasting the limited funding available and making a bigger mess. Or, you could take a step back and assess what the actual problem is, draw the ideas from the community you’re trying to help, and then make a difference in a way that allows others to continue your work. Just brilliant.
Once I’m back home, I intend on finding out how I could send a science intern or two to learn from and contribute to this incredible mission – so keep an eye out for that.
The last visit for the day was to an orphan day centre in Bali. ‘Orphan’ in this part of the world doesn’t necessarily mean what we are used to it meaning – some of the children have a single and very poor parent, for example. These kids went to school normally and spent time in the centre, eventually going to sleep at home.
We were told that the centre was very well organised and managed by a phenomenal woman. I could feel that vibe as we arrived, and then again when we met the children. They sang beautifully to us and brought a tear to my eyes. They weren’t sad tears or tears of pity, but tears about the stress and pressures that we seem to put on ourselves with day to day lives. I thought of the stress factors that we generally seem to deal with at work and considered how unreal they were; and I mean unreal in the genuine sense of the word. They’re issues that we create as we move along day to day and generally don’t reflect the reality of most of the world’s population. How fortunate we are to have that luxury and even more fortunate to be able to have these experiences and put things into perspective.
Although the group made a donation to the centre, we were also given the opportunity to purchase the children’s art. It was a really fantastic way to support the children directly, because they got to keep 50% of the money for their art. We asked the children who were there to show us any of their own artworks and, as I’m sure you can imagine, we bought all of their work. Rather than taking back souvenirs for my friends, I have pieces of art and have essentially made a small donation in their name – better than a bamboo straw or key ring.
If you’re interested in helping out, you are also able to sponsor the children. Money goes towards paying their school fees and purchasing necessities to get them through the school year. It truly is a fantastic set-up.
Now that I’ve had my dinner and showered, all I can think about is how important it is to be mindful of the perspective that I am taking when I look at a situation. There are so many angles and lenses that can be used to assess a situation. I think that I have recently fallen into the trap of reading situations through the same pair of glasses, without even realising it. It’s time to change that.
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