Wednesday night we went to Kuta – a main Bali tourist spot – for a going away dinner for Wayne from Developing World Connections. It was outstanding the difference between here and where we are staying near the orphanage Untal Untal. Immediately everything was more Westernized – lots of nice stores, bars and restaurants. I now know why people who only see this side of Bali think it’s a resort island with noone living in poverty or in need of help. But the group and I quickly learned that the glitz rubs off quickly as you drive more inland to where we’re staying. There’s poverty all around us. Right outside our walls are rice fields with workers sleeping in shantys. The streets are crowded, dirty and loud. There are small store fronts with very few products and garbage piles littering the streets.
The orphanage Untal Untal is a little haven from this world. Even though it is right off the street in the midst of motorcycle chaos, it has a calm created by the wonderful caring of director Tina. She welcomes us every day with a huge smile and her enthusiasm is infectious. These 72 girls are very fortunate to have her.
We have spent three full days working here painting, and things are starting to really look good! Each day we get to know the girls better and we have been learning about their situation and past. It is easy to see why these girls are flourishing at the orphanage. I can only imagine the rough life they would have endured if their families wouldn’t have given them up. Each one is striving to do well in school and be successful in life. I feel bad that they are no longer with their families but they are all so happy where they are now.
In the afternoon the girls had a Balinese dance class which we got to watch. I loved it! The artistry and fluid movement was captivating with complicated sequences and perfected hand placement. It looks like it’s taken the girls years of study to learn. The featured girl is sponsored by Bill Taylor, the head of The Bali Fund. When she first came to the orphanage a few years ago, they didn’t know if she would make it because she was so malnourished. Because of Bill and Widhya Asih Foundation she was given a chance. There are so many more stories like this and these girls just keep me in awe.
Last night after diner, we went back to Untal Untal and had a very rousing night of singing and laughing with the girls. They serenaded us with lots of songs and the Softchoice Cares Board even got up and sang some John Denver…the girls were nice enough to applaud! We realized we need more songs in our back pocket though – we are nothing compared to these girls. It was an uplifting night to be able to hang out and goof around with all of them. They are truly just like girls everywhere else; lots of giggling and with the sweetest personalities. They are so curious and ask all types of questions. I showed them some pictures of me skiing and they were enthralled with all the snow and couldn’t believe people actually play in it! It is definitely something they don’t see in Bali. Afterwards we came home completely energized with big smiles on our face. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and see them again! It is moments like these that I know this trip was the right decision and we are definitely making a difference.