I believe in doing our best to give back to the country we’re traveling in. Granted, we are actually giving back to the country and their economy by simply being there, but do you ever feel like you would like to do more?
One of my favourite travel destinations and one which is particularly popular with Australians is Bali. When I’m in Bali, I like to give back a little more, not only by spending copious amounts of money on five star accommodation, cocktails and clothing, but also by visiting some of the many orphanages.
My mum and I have supported the Widhya Asih Foundation for many years, and on my most recent trip, my friend Tracey and I visited one of their six orphanages. The particular home for children we visited is located between Ubud and Denpasar and houses young girls aged 12-18. Before arriving, we enquired about specific items they may have needed. It was only the essentials, which consisted of cleaning products, cooking oil, school socks and writing books. We purchased about $100 worth of these items (this got us a lot in Bali!) and were on our way.
Upon our arrival we were given a tour of the facility, which while nice overall, is lacking in furniture, books and basic kitchen items. After our tour, thrilled to meet the two Australian women who had come to visit them, we were eagerly greeted by thirty-five beautiful smiling faces as they strolled back from Church. One by one these gorgeous girls greeted us with handshakes and ever-widening smiles. We showed them all what we had bought and they were very pleased and appreciative.
Tracey and I got to know the girls a little, talking about school, their future, boys and even Facebook! (I’m sure we will have a few new Facebook friends shortly!) While we chatted, the girls made us bracelets with our names on them – a keepsake we will treasure.
The most special moment of all, was when we sang. They were so excited to find out that I sang, so I entertained them with ‘Smile’ by Charlie Chaplin. When I finished the song, they clapped and cheered and couldn’t wipe the smiles from their faces and neither could I. When I thought it couldn’t get any better, they asked if I would teach them to sing. I demonstrated some basic breathing techniques and scales, taught them to sing ‘Smile’ and wrote the words out for them so they could practice. Singing ‘Smile’ together brought tears to my eyes and made my heart smile bigger than it has in a very long time.
Visiting orphans – what an experience! I have done it before, but not for a few years and I had forgotten what it felt like. I had forgotten what it felt like to really give. Sure, I probably give fairly often in many different ways without even realizing it. But to REALLY give and to take the time out of your life to do it intentionally, with love, grace and passion, really has a special feeling of its own.
Often it seems that people are under the impression that charity needs to be a big grand gesture, taking a great deal of time, effort and money. This is not the case – If you have the time, resources and money to do all that, then fantastic! Do it! But what if you don’t? Does that mean you can’t make a little bit of difference with what you do have?
Between us, Tracey and I spent a total of $140 ($100 on items for the orphanage and $40 for transport) and five hours of our time. To the average Australian, that is a mere amount of money and time to spend, and I know we wouldn’t hesitate to spend that sort of money and time on ourselves. Yes, it was a small amount of money and time, but does this make the gesture any less special? Does this make the gesture any less meaningful? – Of course not!
Spending that time with those girls, witnessing the way they were so happy and bright about their futures and so grateful for the little things, was so special for me. And just imagine how incredibly special it would have been for them?!
So next time you’re in Bali, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, how about spending even a little bit of time and money to make a little bit of difference to someone else’s life? There really isn’t another feeling like it!
If you are interested in visiting one of the Bali orphanages, or just want to chat, I would love to hear from you!