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What’s the measure of a good life?

Culture | Posted on April 19, 2012 by James Kessenich

How do you measure if you have a good life, or if you’re happy? If you asked most North American’s that question, their answers would be all across the board.  Perhaps it’s the ability to buy a new car, or graduate from high school or college.  Maybe it’s a new house or that boat you always dreamed of.

If you asked me that question, I would probably tell you that I want to make enough money to be comfortable, to go on a nice vacation once a year, and put my kids through college – just like my parents did for me.

Ask that same question to a girl from the Untal Untal orphanage and she would tell you something entirely different. I bet it’s not something materialistic like a new car or shiny boat. She’ll likely answer that it’s the ability to simply go to school and not have to live day to day, not knowing when or where her next meal will come from.

Getting to know Anita

14 year old Anita is one of those girls. I was fortunate to get know Anita while at Untal Untal. Anita’s family lives north of Bali but couldn’t afford to send her to school.  Her parents did what they had to and put her in the orphanage so that she would have the chance of a better life. She loves school and wants to be a doctor or pastor one day.  She lights up immediately when I ask her if she likes it at the orphanage; she says yes, she has lots of friends.  I ask her if she gets to see her parents regularly but she says no and doesn’t know when she’ll get to see them again.

Bill Taylor sponsors several girls from the orphanage.  One girl he sponsors was so malnourished when they found her that they only gave her a month to live. Thankfully, she fully recovered because of the orphanage. She is now the star dancer and musician at Untal Untal.

My wife and I are going to sponsor a girl.  Yatti the Sponsor coordinator at Wiydya Asih was telling me about a girl whose father sold her to a hotel to work and she had been working there for almost two years when they found her.

I can’t imagine a life like that in North America… living away from my parents or making the decision as a parent to send my child off to a place where I may never see him or her again.  I can’t imagine finding a girl on the street who is about to die simply because she has no food.  I can’t imagine for a second, selling my child to a hotel because it was my only option to help my family to survive.

Every girl we have spoken to has a similar story, and more than willing to share. They speak of it merely as a normal part of life…which is seems to be in Bali. What impresses me the most about them, however, is how nice, outgoing and happy they are.  You can’t even tell the hard lives they live or rather the hard lives they once had.

Now, if you asked me what I think would make these girls happy – I believe they would simply want what any other 8-14 year old wants in Bali: the chance to survive and the chance to simply be a Teenager.

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