By Chanelle Lauren Cox, EBPP Documentary Volunteer
13th February 2012: I have been assisting with the development of an awareness video for East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP) for the past few weeks. Over this time, I have become very familiar with various footage and images of suffering communities, EBPP programs, charts and philosophies. I have also received explanations from David Booth, Aris Hariyanto (PR staff) and Komang Kurniawan Team Leader) about the work of EBPP; including the state of the people when they were discovered, statistics, initiatives and improvements. I further have had the opportunity to hear the personal stories of those within this organisation and these, are touching tales.
I guess I wouldn’t be here if this cause hadn’t also moved me from my home in Australia. However, as to be expected, my comprehension of the situation was increased dramatically when I visited the location of the people whom EBPP work to support on 24th January 2012.
I met Komang at 6am to take me for a site tour. After hours of driving to reach the base of Mount Agung, we proceeded to drive from one village to another, up the steep and rough terrain of the mountain. There has been much progress in terms of road infrastructure when one considers that only 12 years ago there was no access whatsoever! Yet, even still in a rather large 4WD, it is a tough journey to reach the higher villages.
These are scattered up Mount Agung to form the Desa Ban at large. Most of the people located here have never seen anything else. This is their world. And, before East Bali Poverty Project discovered their existence, it was a dark one. I have read many stories written by the children who lived here explaining this. On one hand, I was absorbing the picturesque view from the mountain and on the other, the suffering of the people who have been isolated living in this location.
My primary stops were to visit the three EBPP schools and I was extremely impressed with the radical improvement of the students, as I was able to identify some of them from footage I have seen. The overall health improvements and hygiene standards were evident even at first glance. All participating eagerly, not a student was taking their education for granted. Admittedly, I was a distraction, and yet still they all maintained their focus.
The intelligence these children demonstrated in class left me fairly speechless. The library facilities available are wonderful and it is exciting to see books available for the students to read.
The children’s artistic skills are also something I need to mention. I watched one class draw such beautiful drawings of their surroundings and was gob-smacked to learn they were only 7-8 years old! I was also shown the art gallery which is owned by the Cegi students’ cooperative. The children had requested that they have somewhere to showcase their artworks and what a wonderful place to provide them with a sense of pride and encourage their creativity.
I also witnessed a routine health check of a baby by the health team (which is part of the mobile health service which visits families up the mountain). The interesting thing to watch was the older children’s involvement in the process. They had already learnt exactly what to do and were placing the baby in the correct position to be weighed and were instinctively taking ownership of the process.
On return to EBPP head office at the base of the mountain, I met with the head of each of the various teams and was run through some of their work. Each team’s work was equally as impressive and it is the combined efforts of such people which have enabled such drastic improvements to this region. The water & sanitation team demonstrated the mobile device which they use to test the level of E.coli bacteria in the water of the region, which is very clever. Not to mention the ability of the team leader to explain this to me in English. When I asked him how long he had been speaking English, he answered that he had simply picked up what he could from the few years he has been listening to David. To these sorts of impressive replies, I find I must simply shake their hands in admiration. The modesty at their success is a beautiful thing.
I listened as the Health Care Nurses sat with Amy Cardamone (Public Health Volunteer) and discussed current progress and future plans to educate the women in the villages also. Their passion and nurturing nature were paramount. They really understood the culture of the people and ways in which was better to work with them, rather than trying to push something external and disregard this.
I am conscious of referring to the people who live in these villages as ‘they’ and to outsiders, like myself, as something else. However, there is a difference, as most Western people have not faced such living conditions and although we can sympathize, we have been fortunate that we are removed from such situations. Yet, as all human, I think the more we can remove this differentiation and come together from a more holistic point of view, then the more inclined we are to reach out our hands to help when it is needed.
To visit these villages certainly does aid in understanding the situation and to be able to really consider the previous conditions here. The success of the pilot village systems is testament to the work of people who have reached out with all of their hearts. It is also something which cannot be captured in its entirety in a 12 minute video, although we aim to provide a brief summary.