It is Saturday morning and I have been invited to attend a preparatory meeting at Campuhan College in Ubud, Bali, for the Rural Village Educare Program. The meeting starts at 10:30am sharp. When I arrive at the college, the place is silent. Not knowing what to think, I sneak quietly up the stairs to the upper hall to find about 18 college students in meditation. This is how they start their meetings and I'm impressed!
Ten minutes later, and the students are designing a program for the next day, Sunday, that they will bring to youngsters in a school in some remote village called Jatiluwih. The director of the program, a visionary young man of 25 called Scholastica, has come up with the basic design for the program to address the body, mind and spirit. This, he explained, creates and maintains balance within.
This Saturday morning is like any other Saturday morning for these 19 - 23 year Campuhan College students. Students decide what team they want to be on: the English language team (addresses learning and therefore the mind), the games team (which moves the body), the story telling team where the youngsters get to act out the story (which addresses the creative aspect of the mind), the art team (which makes use of the mind and spirit) and the reflection team (which is a guided meditation and addresses the spirit). Great detail is given to the design of each team's program - what will be taught in the English language and how, what games will be played, what story will be told, and what guiding meditation will be given. Everyone is invited to comment until everyone is in agreement. This planning process takes two to three hours.
6:45 Sunday morning - the hour everyone has agreed to meet again at Campuhan College. The students arrive promptly one after another on their motor bikes. Video and camera equipment is picked up from the office upstairs and we're on our way. About one and a half hours later, we arrive at a small town in the hills of Bali, called Jatiluwih. The area is breathtakingly beautiful and almost has an atmosphere of otherworldliness about it.
We climb off our motorbikes and are greeted enthusiastically by a group of ten year old kids. They are neatly dressed in clean clothes, barefoot with great big smiles from their hearts on their faces. Their enthusiasm is contagious and a deep gratitude to be able to spend the day with these beautiful children, fills my heart. As soon as they see us they get busy - clearing the class room where we will spend the morning with them. They pick up brooms which are tiny and have very little brush left on them and start sweeping the floors. Furniture is moved to the walls to make space in the centre. Everything is done with a smile. They are like beautiful butterflies, these children.
Nine o'clock sharp, and we begin the morning with a song "I am a peaceful star, I am". It is sung with all the open hearted enthusiasm that I so love about these kids.
This is followed by a lesson in English language. One of the college students writes the days of the week on the blackboard, which isn't that black anymore. 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday......' etc. The leader of the team reads out the days in English and the children repeat after her. In unison, their voices are not at all shy but strong and joyful. Then they are taught 'before and after'. Each child is asked to come up to the front of the class and I get to ask each a question: 'What day is before Monday? What day is after Friday?' etc. If the answer is incorrect, the rest of the class helps out. Some are shy, some are proud that they know the answer and respond in a loud and clear voice and everyone of these children is so focussed, eager to learn and to get it 'right'.
After about an hour and a half of English class, we move outside for the games. A string is strung like a wash line between two buildings and pieces of rice crackers are hung on strings from the 'wash line'. At a distance of about 20 yards, a couple of children are blindfolded, turned around and told to move forward towards the rice crackers, under loud guidance from their peers. They have to eat the rice crackers without reaching for them with their hands. One kid hates the taste of the rice cracker and spits it out in disgust after he reached his goal, under loud laughter and applause from his team.
Next, we move into story telling with new team leaders. A story has been translated from English into the Indonesian language by someone of the team and is now narrated in Indonesian. The children get to act out the story and everyone howls with laughter. Then the children are asked what the 'moral' of the story is - sometimes there is more than one lesson and they all get it.
Art is the next item on the agenda of this morning. A bundle of crayons is spread out on the classroom floor. Each child is handed a package, which consists of a red plastic envelope that contains paper, a small notebook/diary, pencil, pen and an eraser. They take out a sheet of paper, move to the center of the floor and begin to draw with the coloured crayons. I am astounded as to the quality of their art for kids this age. One draws a turtle with amazing detail and shades of colour, another draws a typical Balinese farming scene of a farmer and his oxen ploughing a rice paddy, some draw butterflies, etc.
After art, it's time for writing and reflection and everyone takes out the diary from the red envelope and begins to write his/her experiences and thoughts of the morning. This is followed by reflection. All kids sit cross legged on the floor, close their eyes (some boys peek) and the guided meditation begins. 'Imagine you are a star in the big open universe...'
Our morning with these children has flown by. It is almost noon and there is one more thing left to do. One of the team leaders asks for a volunteer to say the closing prayer. A boy eagerly raises his hand and proudly comes up to the front of the classroom. He is handed a paper upon which is written the prayer in the Indonesian language: "Terimah kassi, Tuan", is repeated after each paragraph — "Thank You, Lord", while Scholastica accompanies him softly on the guitar. My heart melts even more - I don't want this morning to end. I am so humbled by these incredible children and my heart is as big and as open as the sky, as the prayer ends. The kids shake hands with each of the team leaders, thanking them for the time spent together. It's been a high energy morning and everyone's had so much fun. The Oneness was palpable, the Joy amazing and the Love incredible and so much.... so much gratitude from these children!!
After our time together comes to an end, the furniture is put back and the classroom is tidied up. We all leave together — the kids go home and the team leaders gather for lunch nearby at a local warung (local restaurant), where delicious lunches are served for about $1.50 a plate. The purpose of this lunch gathering is to discuss any observations that were made during the morning, with the main question: where is there room for improvement? was our purpose — to teach these kids in a fun and loving way — achieved? did we create a 'safe' environment for them to learn? what needs to be done differently? and also - where did we do well? Again, everyone's comments was welcome, including mine.
My admiration is huge — for this project and especially for the Campuhan college students who give freely of their time every weekend in order to facilitate a fun learning experience for these children who live in rural, and often remote, villages and to give these children a chance to expand their lives. The sense of community service, their creativity and genuine Love and care from the hearts of these college students truly is an example to the world.
I Love these students and I Love these children and I will return. I am deeply grateful and honoured to have had the opportunity to learn from these wonderful people that are the future of this country, Indonesia.
Patricia Lawrence, Kauai. Volunteer — March 2009
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