Travel report from Dan and Scarlett (august 2011)

In early 2010 we decided to plan a 3 month trip through Indonesia with the intention of volunteering along the way. Whilst planning our trip we came across the PAK orphanage website on the internet and thought it sounded just like what we had in mind. The whole process of organizing our stay with Jan was a breeze as he was so informative and helpful.

We left Australia in June and after spending 2 amazing months travelling through Lombok, Bali and Java we made our way to Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi to start our 2 weeks volunteering at the orphanage in Bua. Upon our arrival and meeting the children any nerves or apprehension we had were immediately put at ease. The relaxed family atmosphere of the orphanage and the friendliness of the children made our stay a fantastic experience. The boys were nowhere near shy and took no time wanting to get to know us. The girls however took a few days longer but slowly started to open up. We soon adjusted to the operation of the orphanage and were surprised by the independence of the children. From cooking, to cleaning and washing their own clothes the only thing we ever had to ask of them was to do their homework. But who likes doing homework?!! This was sometimes a challenge and the only time when the language barrier made things difficult, however helping the children with their tasks was very rewarding. Especially when the children started to ask us for additional homework as they were enjoying it so much.

Despite the children going to school 6 days a week and church on Sunday, there was still plenty of playtime. The boys loved to play football and were really inventive and clever at making their own toys. The younger girls loved coloring in pictures and the older girls singing. There was also time for excursions around the local area. We visited a hotel swimming pool on the road toward Rantepao and visited some of the children’s relatives houses. The children loved swimming in the pool and riding in the back of trucks we hailed down on the road for a lift. Whilst the children were at school, it was a good opportunity to explore the surrounding area by ourselves. There is heaps to do from shopping in Rantepao to sightseeing. Tana Toraja is a very unique part of the world and well worth visiting on its own. We will never forget the funeral ceremony we attended, it was something I dare say we will never see the likes of again. An amazing experience!

The highlight of our time was getting to know and developing a relationship with each child. Even though our Bahasa was limited, communication with the children came much easier than we initially thought. Building relationships with the children took no time, as they were very open and craved attention.
Another part of our stay we loved was walking the children to school each morning through the stunning scenery which led to their school. The locals we encountered whilst walking around the area were always
welcoming and really friendly. It was beautiful and the perfect way to start the day. After our two weeks spent at the orphanage saying goodbye to the children proved a lot harder than what we both expected. We still think about our time there regularly and would love to one day return.

Thanks,

Dan and Scarlett
Australia