An inspirational first week at The East Bali Poverty Project
By Michelle Kwan, Australian Volunteer for International Development, 11th April 2014
My name is Michelle and I recently joined the East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP) as a volunteer to help build capacity in the area of fundraising and communications. Last Friday I visited the sites of the EBPP, spread across the moutainous region between Mount Agung and Mt Abang in the Desa Ban Village. This remote area spans 7,200ha of rugged terrain and in amongst this are pockets of communities who have lived here for generations, facing great adversity throughout their existence.
I was told before I left for Desa Ban that portions of the road in the village were in a dire state. I was so surprised to see first hand and experience the severely eroded dirt tracks, which are the only entry/exit points for communities living in these hamlets to access so many important services that I think many people take for granted.
These tracks continue to erode every day, even more so when it rains. It was so hard to believe that children, the elderly, pregnant women walk these roads every day to get to and from school, to work, health care providers, or to the market. Some ride motorbikes, and I can’t tell which mode of transport is more dangerous on these roads. Through the support of donors from around the world, the EBPP has been able to build safer roads in some stretches which has dramatically improved the community’s wellbeing and outlook. Though there are still areas of the track that desperately need attention.
That day, I was lucky to visit two EBPP schools. In Manikaji school, the children aged from about 8 to 9 years old were learning Balinese and almost ready to have their daily nutritious lunch, an integral and essential element of EBPP education programmes, accounting for about 40% of each child’s annual sponsorship budget. EBPP’s Darmaji school was our next stop and I was delighted to hear the sound of a guitar strumming away as we arrived and children singing with such positive energy. All the students in the school were gathered in a room with volunteer professional musician, Ross Green, to compose a song that they felt represented their school, their community and themselves. It was great to see everyone so excited as David (Founder and CEO) walked in, and to see some of the lyrics they were putting together. Really inspiring stuff!
I feel priveleged to have been given this opportunity to basically share stories and tell the world how amazing and wonderful this organisation is and how far it has come in the past 15 years.
Having met David Booth in person, I can now see the passion that he has for the people of Bali, and his family in Desa Ban. I say family, because that is the closest association I can draw. That’s exactly what it is. I saw the relationships he has with the community, creating smiles everywhere he went, joking with the kids. I was so humbled to hear him explain to me, “this is my wealth”.
It was a big day, but never once did it feel exhausting. There was just so much to take in, the incredible beauty of the mountainside and the people residing within it. On the drive home from Desa Ban, I couldn’t stop smiling knowing how amazing this organisation is and the positive impact it has had on the people in these remote hamlets. A truly community-centred organisation empowering people to help themselves out of poverty.