Travel Report Andre Meijer 2007
"With faces beaming with joy in the swimming pool, loudly singing along during a lesson or on cloud number nine while playing some football. What I remember most about the orphanage are these wonderful kids. Thirty different personalities, but each one special in its own right.

After some very nice touristic holiday trips to South East Asia, I thought it was time for a change in 2007. In spite of sometimes impoverished circumstances I found the people to be very friendly. Therefore I wanted to work with these people and, if possible, help them.

Among the several options available on the internet I chose the orphanage on Sulawesi. I did not know that much about teaching and even less about Indonesia. Luckily another volunteer guided me well through the first days. And the enthusiasm of the kids completed it.

The orphanage is home to about thirty kids. For the English lessons they are divided into three age groups. 6 to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 18. The difference in level between the kids was significant. Some were brilliant, others silent. They all understood a bit of English, but with the exception of two or three, they were all of elementary level. Quite understandable, as the notion of different verb tenses is not known in the Indonesian language. Naturally the youngest liked it best when the lessons were set in a playful environment. Yet, simply showing them some genuine interest is more important than the actual content of the lessons.

Maybe this all sounds a bit too much like a little-house-on-the-prairie Indonesian style. There are other things to take into account. The facilities are basic. I found the communication with the family that runs the orphanage confusing and the dos and don’ts of Indonesian society are different than those of ‘our’ society. Compared to other Southeast Asian nations all these things are not unusual though. And twice during my stay some children were at odds with each other. Both times on the football pitch, so that is at least one similarity with western culture.

In the end I was a bit overwhelmed by the experience. It took me some time to take it all in, and apply all the things I learned during my stay there. And having returned home I could not just forget all these wonderful kids. So I decided to return in 2008."

Andre Meijer