It’s six o’clock on Monday morning and I am wide awake, watching the sun rise over rice fields, waiting for Komang (EBPP Team Leader and Chairman) to pick me up. I’m heading to Ban Village today for the first time and I couldn’t be more excited! Komang and I grab a coffee and hit the road. The drive from Sanur is smooth until we start making a climb up Mt Agung on rough roads, bumping up and down, going from stone gravel to eroded asphalt to cement block lanes. I am eager to see the village and meet the community members who I have heard so much about from everyone at East Bali Poverty Project. We head north and make our way to the EBPP offices. The office is filled with smiling faces (even first thing on a Monday morning!) and artwork from the village children is proudly displayed on the walls.
After introductions and a quick tour, we’re back in the 4×4 pick-up to begin our journey around Ban Village. I have no idea what we are in for but I am so excited. Right away, I notice the landscape: how different the rocks and soil look from anything I’ve seen before. Its burnt red colouring starkly contrasts against the lush green landscape – it’s both beautiful and peculiar. Komang explains that the red rocks are from the Mt Agung eruption of 1963. The lava gushed down the sides and, still to this day, you can see a wide dry river of charred red rocks along the side of the mountain. You can see why they have trouble growing prosperous crops. Before EBPP came into Ban Village, most of the population lived off of cassava and corn, both of which lack the necessary range of vitamins needed to keep nourished.
We make our way to meet a lovely couple who live in a traditional one room bamboo home. The man has just received a much needed dental treatment and is in recovery but is in good spirits. They welcome me into their home and kindly let me take a look around. They have a bamboo bed on one side, a bamboo kitchen on the other, and a fireplace in the middle for cooking. Just outside, they have a cement toilet/bathroom block with a bathing area on one side and a toilet on the other. EBPP sponsored this project and provided them with the skills and building materials. These toilet/bathroom blocks provide residents with the privacy they need to maintain their hygiene and keep their living area sanitary.
I thank them for welcoming me (Suksema!) and we make our way to the Bamboo Team in Daya. The local EBPP team is hard at work building an assortment of handicrafts. Two men are tapping pieces of bamboo together so I make my way over and see what’s going on. They are making musical instruments! One man is repeatedly tapping a finished bamboo instrument piece, playing the same note over and over again to help the other man tune his piece. He taps a few times and then carves. Taps a few more times and then carves again. It’s rhythmic and fascinating. Currently, they’re working on the ground outside of the building next to them. In the next few months, they will build a proper Bamboo Workshop from funds raised by the EBPP Crowdfunding Campaign that is currently on. This money is going to give them further training and provide the materials for them to build their own Bamboo Workshop with the goal of creating a sustainable social enterprise for them to earn money and help them help themselves.
Back in the 4×4 pick-up. We make our way to another Ban Village hamlet, Bunga. As we pull up, there’s a crowd of children giggling and playing. Girls on one side, boys on the other. Even though it’s a holiday and there aren’t any classes today, they still spend their time around the school. The schools here aren’t like the schools I know, they’re community gathering place. With the funds and training from EBPP, the communities build their own schools, teach their children, and see this as a place of empowerment. They let me have a peek inside the library/office – it’s filled with shelves of books and a globe and cherished trophies and a keyboard. You can see the love that has been put into this place and how proud the children are to show it off. We snap a few pictures together and they squeal with laughter each time they see a picture of themselves. We say goodbye with waves back and forth about 20 times before we actually drive away out of sight.
Our next stop is Cegi. It’s a colourful hamlet and one of the few with neighbours and homes close together. A lot of the people in other parts of Ban Village live kilometres away from their next neighbours. I mention how much I love the candy-coloured homes and Komang tells me that the paints were donated to the village with the help of an EBPP donor. Each family got to choose which colour they wanted and painted their homes exactly as they wanted to.
We get back into the 4×4 pick-up and take a short trip over the next hamlet – Pengalusan. There are men cutting 2×4’s, smoothing and preparing each piece to get their next building project started. We head farther into the hamlet and something becomes very obvious: basket weaving is their specialty. A group of women is cutting, stripping, and smoothing bamboo and weaving delicate baskets. A couple of men are working on bigger baskets with a courser weave (I find out men didn’t do any basket weaving until recently). It’s a long process but they make it look easy. I assure you, it’s not. They try to teach me and I can’t do it. Not at all. Komang tries to make me feel better, telling me that the people of Pengalusan have been basket weaving for generations. It’s been in their culture for so long that they don’t even know how or when it started. I’m intrigued and entranced.
When we get back to the office, I’m introduced to the art teacher. He takes me to a small building behind the office that is packed to the brim with incredible artwork and a variety of instruments for the Art and Music Teams. He shows me around introducing me to the different art techniques and methods that the kids learn at school. I can’t believe the talent and beauty packed into this room. It’s like an art gallery!
By the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I’ve seen so many beautiful landscapes, rough roads, smiling faces, desolate terrains, and GIANT spiders. I am impressed with how hard the communities have worked building schools, cubangs (clean water collectors), toilet/bathroom blocks, health posts, and gardens. They’ve made so much progress and have many more opportunities than they did 15 years ago. But I also feel inspired and motivated to help continue to move them forward. They still need better roads, a lot of them are still waiting to build cubangs, and they still struggle to make enough income to support their families. Now that Ban Village has established health and education programs (among many other initiatives), EBPP is committed to helping them start a sustainable social enterprise that will fund this community and drive their growth and success into the future. I’m excited to be a part of it and I already can’t wait for my next visit to Ban Village.