Travel report Katrin Meier (2009)
Early 2009 I had the idea that I finally want to do some kind of volunteering vacation and at that time I was pretty sure that it should be something together with children, most preferable a stay in an orphanage. As I did not want to join one of the organized trips available I have started searching through the internet for days and weeks to find an appropriate place. Once I found the site of the PAK orphanages, everything came into place and I ended up with 18 days of vacation in South Sulawesi in July/August 2009.

I enjoyed two relaxing days down in the south of the island to see the wonderful landscape and the beautiful underwater world there before I made my way to Tana Toraja to stay in the orphanage close to Rantepao for two weeks. When I arrived there were two other volunteers in the orphanage as well, but after a few days just two of us were left. Except Sundays the children were in school in the mornings which gave me plenty of time to explore the magnificent surroundings including long walks through the rice fields, rafting through untouched nature, busy and colorful markets and a lot of culture like traditional villages, burial caves, one of the popular funeral ceremonies and an impressive wedding ceremony.

The real highlight of the trip was the amazing time with the children, to experience how they got attached to volunteers pretty quickly and started practicing English to communicate and after some time also tell their individual history, how much happiness they showed by just getting attention, how they were there for each other, but also how they sometimes expressed their sadness. One of the children arrived at the same day then I, and it was really lovely to see how another one hugged him whenever he looked very sad.

Manaek always whirled through the orphanage in her hearty way when she visited us, and she even organized cakes for the birthdays of the children. We celebrated the 8th birthday of David and Tappi during my stay - before coming to the orphanage they never celebrated birthdays nor did they get presents. We decorated the room for them and in the afternoon we sang a song, had a little birthday party and ate the cake together. It was a nice change for the children.

Mama Rano concerns all the children, she does not just care about the house and feed them, but is there if one of them does not feel well or just needs a helping or protective hand.
And she really cares about the volunteers as well - I usually got up pretty early in the morning and once she heard that I went to have a shower, she made Toraja coffee for me and very often cooked me some special Indonesian food to try for breakfast, all very delicious...

Besides a lot of playing together, English lessons and some help with homework, we made a few excursions with the children - we went to a natural "swimming pool" in the cliffs, went out for a picnic, were shopping in Rantepao, went swimming in the pool of a nearby hotel and had dinner out along with karaoke organized by a parish of a village in the neighborhood. It was a lot of fun for all of us and I think we all enjoyed it likewise, children and volunteers.

After two weeks of simple life at the orphanage, I had a very hard time saying good bye and leaving the children! But I kept a lot of worthwhile memories from my time there and I guess there will be a lot of things which I will always remember.

I would do the same again immediately if I had the possibility!

Katrin Meier