By Juan Herrero
We left the grey dawning Denpasar at 6 a.m. and drove towards Mount Agung. The villages, temples, rice fields and crowded roads turned little by little in less busier spaces surrounded by nature as long as we approached the saddle between Mt Agung and Mt Abang. There is where we will have our first stop.
There, all of us, people from the Bamboo Society in Australia and me, were explained the story of EBPP since its first steps by David. In this particular spot was nothing but a thin path in the forest few years ago. Today we can see people daily transit on a confortable road that connects the south with the once isolated north slopes of Mt. Agung. Before David started the EBPP adventure the people from the area used the riverbeds as paths for communication.
Our next stop was Daya, where one of the EBPP site offices is. Here the staff showed us the Bamboo Nursery and all the incredible uses of bamboo in infrastructure. Also we took a look at the worm farm, essential in organic farming, and the bamboo afforestation workshop. The day had only just begun.
We continued our way in a four wheel drive pickup and a trail motorbike as it is a complicated ground. We arrived to Bunga where we found the children in class. All their little wide open eyes were looking at us. We also saw part of the dance show the kids are going to perform in EBPP’s annual August 17th Indonesian Independence Day Festival, one of the very important days in the year for the kids. Everyone is so excited about that, from the youngest to the oldest.
The next stop is the artistic scope in the project, the village of Cegi, where a brand new art gallery is being built sponsored by Don Ferrin and his lecturer colleagues at Singapore Management University. We met the young artists and their surprisingly artwork. In fact, Lias, a noted artist teenager attending EBPP’s Cegi School since 2000, who lives in the village, become so happy (and everyone else with him) when he sold one of his paintings bought to one of the Australian visitors.
We continued our visit all the way through steep dirt roads until we hit the inaccessible little village of Manikaji, where we were guided through a school, a library, water supplies… We had very emotive moments interacting with the children while we presented ourselves to them through a teacher translating to Bahasa.
One of the special things that they occurred up here is when in 1999 where David started the first school, he asked the children how many days they wanted for Christmas & New Year holidays?. “Holidays?” The kids just didn’t want to miss a day at school. “Why would we want to miss time to learn?” they said. This is a pretty good lesson for us all.
We finished the day in EBPP’s headquarters, Ban office, with the rest of the staff, which showed us the several other different EBPP programs.
Where once no eye wanted to look at, today there is all smiles, kindness and gratitude. Congratulations East Bali Poverty Project.