Travel report Veronique Hes (2009)
I am Veronique Hes, 19 years old and I was the first volunteer at the new orphanage in Tana Toraja on South Sulawesi. I found this project through the internet and it was an honour to open this orphanage together with Manaek. The first month I stayed at Manaek’s traditional house (Tongkonan), it was great to participate. Every single day was surprising with a full day schedule. We drove together on a motorcycle up and down to the orphanage, where the local people were still busy working to finish the building on time. The orphanage building is beautiful thanks to all the hard working construction workers. Manaek and I went shopping to buy everything we needed to open the orphanage. We recieved a box with crockery from a sponsor. One week after my arrival my box with equipment arrived which I sent from The Netherlands before I left. I sent some curtains, cloths hooks, table clothes, stuff for the kitchen and I bought a fridge for the orphanage. I could do a lot with the sponsor money and spent it very well. Manaek and I made the bed linen ourselves.

I saw a lot during the first weeks and I shifted my borders. I visited the children before they arrived at the orphanage. It was hard to see the circumstances under whick the children used to live. Most of the children lived with family members, who no longer looked after the child. Walking along paddy fields on asphalt roads in huge mountains, it was an honour to me to discover the children in their environments close by.

We became quite busy when the construction workers finished their work. We paid for the (bunk) beds and mattresses from the sponsor money we got from two Dutch volunteers whom arrived one month after I arrived. The orphanage was ready to accommodate the first eight children; Rafika, Dian, Vika, Elsa, Nelki, Yanto, Tappi and Kevin. Most children didn’t bring any stuff with them, as they didn’t have anything. Many children were shy and needed some time to adjust to their new home.
The grand opening conformed by local traditions. Manaek and I bought a pig to offer during the opening. The male neighbours slaughtered the pig and the women made delicious dishes out of it. All the people and others were present at the opening of the new orphanage.

After a month I was joined by 3 other volunteers. We bought a lot of stuff we still needed at the orphanage. We bought pencils, toys, jumping ropes, fretsaws, balls and much more. The children were very happy with all the stuff and possibilities it gave them. Several children have never seen a pencil before. We taught the children some Dutch songs and they taught us some Indonesian of course. They loved to dance and sing, but they also enjoyed the games we played together. They did everything with a lot of enthusiasm.

The children go to school six days a week. The walk from the orphanage to school takes about 20 minutes. The path to the school is wonderful along rice fields surrounded by a magnificent surroundings. I visited the local school together with Fardau, another volunteer. All the children wear the same uniform and wear different uniforms for each day and school subject. We were invited to a kind of teachersroom, where we tried to communicate with each other, before going to the classrooms, which were not that bad. Upon arrival at the orphanage they children lunch together, then start painting, drawing, doing their homework and playing.
Sometimes we did personal activities while the children were at to school, so we had enough time to spend when they got back from school. We enjoyed our dinner cooked by Mama Rano. The food was delicious or “enak sekali” as they call it in Indonesia, we enjoyed the food every single day. After diner we did some chores and then the children enjoyed an apple. The children really like eating apples. The volunteers can always help Mama Rano if they want to; we really liked to support her with the daily chores at the orphanage. The children go to bed around 08.00 PM.

The children went to Sunday school. The children are separated from the adults at the church. The adults go to the large church, the service is in the Indonesian language, but sometimes they will translate it to English. Usually we went swimming with the children on Sundays at a local hotel. The children enjoyed swimming at the pool.

We saw the children change, first they were shy and then they became relaxed and happy again. They really felt at home at the new orphanage. We saw them laughing and crying at the orphanage. It seems that they have a lot of sadness inside and they let out their emotions after a while. They have lost one or both of their parents and the other family cannot take care of them anymore, so they have found a shelter at the orphanage. It made me happy that I can comfort the children and to be there for them if they need me.

All of the eight children are great, every one of them, and I am very glad that I was able do this project. After two months participation I sadly had to say goodbye. I had a wonderful experience after spending two months in this great country Indonesia and nobody can take away those experiences and memories!

I am sure that I will return to Indonesia to see the children again.

Veronique Hes