A friend of mine mentioned she was going to volunteer in Africa in the coming year, which inspired me to start planning my own volunteer abroad trip.
Why did you choose International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)?
I chose IVHQ because their programs are relatively affordable, it was a company that had been around for a while so it was well established, and its safety measures were very reassuring.
What was your favorite part about Bali?
My favourite part of being in Bali would have to be the locals. There was this local bar/restaurant not too far from my accommodation, and I fell in love with it to say the least. Leo, the owner, and Thomas, a fellow regular and volunteer, just drew me into the place. Meeting Leo, hearing his story to create Cupit, the name of the place just reinforced the feeling of family I felt from the first time I walked through the doors.
What made your experience abroad unique?
I believe the group that I had made the biggest impact on my experience. They were mostly all volunteers from my house, but there were also a handful of locals that just made me feel so welcome that it was the hardest to leave them.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff was extremely helpful. If there was ever any confusion about what was expected of the volunteers or what to teach the kids, someone was always there ready to lend a hand. I especially recognize the help of my coordinator and the local teacher at my placement, because I know that without them, I definitely wouldn't have been able to make as great an impact on the kids' lives and education, as well as on the community.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
The only thing that I regret is not having planned to stay longer. I don't think two weeks was anywhere near enough, and I definitely haven't had enough of Bali by a long shot.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
We would wake up and get ready to go to the canteen around 7:00 a.m., so that we could eat breakfast before meeting with out coordinator at 7:30 a.m. We would then make our way to Payangan Kindergarten, where my placement was, which was about a 30 minute drive from our village in Penestanan Kaja.
We would arrive for 8:00 a.m., at which time we would help the local teacher with her lessons with the kids, until it was our turn to teach at 8:30 a.m. From 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. we would review the previous day's lesson before beginning to run through that day's course material which we had prepared the day before. From 9:00 - 9:30 was break time for the kids, so we would all go outside and play games with them, their favourite being Duck, Duck, Goose. At 9:30 until 10, we would continue our lessons with the kids. After that the teacher would wrap up and do prayer with the kids, and we’d help to the best of our abilities.
When class was over, we’d head back to the village and our driver would drop us off at the Green Lion office. From there my partner and I would head down to the Rice Terrace House to plan out the lesson for the following day.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
There was a pool nearby that you could access for about $5. There was a bar/restaurant that all the locals know called Cupit, which is where I would spend most of my time. The staff is awesome, food is cheap and tastes good, and the wifi is great. There is also live music there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There was another cafe called Kopi Desa, where they had movie night on Wednesdays. My housemate Lawson and I visited some tourist attractions too, such as waterfalls and hikes.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
Our accommodation was very, very basic, but it wasn't too bad. I really liked that there was space for me and my house to socialize and chat in.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
I believe that every volunteer should be prepared to put work into their program. It is easy to forget that you are there to volunteer during orientation week. But, I believe that once you apply yourself and go that extra mile to help the kids get an education, it will be very rewarding and and you'll be able to have more fun with the kids you are teaching.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I believe that this trip has made me appreciate people a whole lot more. This trip really brought me out of my shell and now I feel more comfortable befriending people than I would have before. It has allowed me to connect with people more easily.
Would you recommend your program to others? Why?
I would absolutely recommend this program to other people. It is very rewarding and worthwhile. The people you meet there will make you never want to leave. I believe this is the best way to see and truly appreciate a culture. Through this program, you'll really be able to fall in love with the country and the people.
Eighteen-year-old Jackie is from Canada currently taking a gap year before going to university to become an English teacher. Volunteering in Bali was her first time outside of Canada, but she hopes to explore more of the world soon.