Written by Bob Scholten on 29th November 2012
My name is Bob Scholten. Having done 2 years of university, I decided to take 6 months off and move back to Jakarta. I first moved to Indonesia when I was 8 years old, and graduated from Jakarta International School in 2010. I’ve lived in third world countries for my entire life, but I never knew there were places like Desa Ban that were so incredibly desperate for help. I have been surrounded by poverty my entire life, but this was a whole different level of poverty.
In September I helped organize an event called Bali Garden Party, which raises money for numerous charities, including East Bali Poverty Project. I met David Booth there, and was immediately eager to learn more. I contacted him in November and asked to volunteer. Unfortunately I could only stay in Bali for less than 2 weeks from the 19th until the 29th of November, but all the help was needed.
I was asked to work at the office in Denpasar, writing pieces and working on a bar chart that graphs all the achievements EBPP has done from 1998 to the end of 2012, and a forecast of the next 5 years. On the first day in the office, I was overwhelmed with documents, graphs and other sheets regarding EBPP and Desa Ban. I spent hours reading and sifting through all the information. That afternoon I sat in silence eating my nasi goreng, thinking about this place called Ban. I was absolutely stunned. I could not understand that places like Ban still existed in 1998. After several days in the office, I got the chance to go up to Desa Ban.
We left the Denpasar office at 6:00 am to avoid the traffic, and set out to the two mountains called Mt. Agung and Mt. Abang with Pak Ardika the deputy team leader, as our driver. After about an hour, the roads became narrower and were creeping up the hill. This continued for about another half hour until the car stopped. I looked around and saw a cliff side to my right, and a temple on my left. David Booth turned around and said, “Right kiddo, this is the boundary of Desa Ban with Mt Agung on your right, and Mt Abang to your left.” We had literally stopped on the side of an asphalted road, so I was a little confused. David went on to explain that when he first arrived here in 1998, he had to drive through the jungle and steep dry riverbeds that flooded during the rainy season in order to get into Desa Ban. We continued down into the saddle of the two mountains, and I was looking around in absolute amazement. The road was asphalted for 16 km through the village, but David did point out that most of the hamlets were only accessible by dirt tracks. Having read about it for days in the office about what it used to be like, I got great admiration for David and all he’s done with the EBPP.
We arrived at the EBPP up-mountain base office in Daya and David introduced me to Ketut Suastika (Head of Bamboo and Organic Farming Field Teams). We got some coffee, and sat down for a meeting. I was simply in Desa Ban that day because David wanted me to see it with my own eyes. We drove further into the village, and up to mountain to the school in Darmaji. I got a tour of the school and introduced myself in all the classes. The kids simply looked at me with a combination of fear and shock; their morning lesson of Bahasa Bali & Religion, Physics, Organic Farming class, art class or Bahasa Indonesia class, got interrupted by a 6’3” blonde-haired rugby player who has to duck down and walk in sideways to get through each and every doorway, designed for shorter Balinese people.
The days following my experience in Ban, I continued my work at the office with a completely different perception. It was no longer reading and writing about some village called Ban, but I was putting all of my effort into doing the best I could for the village and EBPP. When I saw David after the weekend, I couldn’t help but smile when he asked me to write a lesson plan for their English Creative Writing Class, that I would be implementing on Wednesday at Manikaji Pucak.
I arrived in Ban on Wednesday morning, and had a meeting with ibu Eka, the English teacher. I explained to her what I wanted to do that day, and why I felt they were important. Off we went on our dirt bikes, over rocks and sand paths, to the EBPP Desa Ban Head Office. There, I met Made Suarjana (Senior Teacher) and Merdeka Suputra (EBPP Qualified English Teacher, Ibu Eka).From there we took a Daihatsu 4 wheel-drive to EBPP School in Manikaji Pucak. At an elevation of around 1,000 meters on the slopes of Mt Abang, the road leading up to it was quite an experience. In front of me I saw the 3-meter wide path we were supposed to follow, and behind me I saw the east coast of Bali, and the sea beyond that. After half an hour driving up the mountain, we arrived at the school, a building containing 8 classrooms for 53 students. I got a tour of the school, popped my head into every class and proceeded to the classroom where I would be teaching.
The four students I taught that day were not only incredibly smart, but more importantly, they were so determined to learn English. I introduced myself briefly, and encouraged them to ask my questions. Instead of writing on the board and having them copy it down, or repeat what is said to them, I wanted them to hear and speak as much English in that one hour. The students were a little shy at first, but it didn’t take them long to ask me things. After that, I asked them to pair up, and interview each other in the same way they “interviewed” me, and give a short presentation in front of the classroom about their partner. The main focus of this was to not only speak English in front of people, but also learn how to speak when the subject and thus the verb, changes (I am / he is). I noticed quite a few mistakes in their grammar regarding this subject, so I decided to do some exercises. I wrote down 10 short sentences on the board, each using different subject, and with a blank where the verb should have been. The students had to write down the correct conjugated verb in the blank. After a while they understood it, and were even able to answer the trickier ones correctly. The wrap up the class, I wrote “What do you want to be when you grow up, and why?” on the board, and asked them to write down some things and present it in front of the class. Two kids wanted to become musicians, one a policeman and the other a tour guide.
It brought a smile on my face knowing that with all the amazing work EBPP has been doing over the past 14 years, these childhood dreams may very well become reality. From pure survival on a daily basis to education for a sustainable economy, Ban has come a long way in a short amount of time. Thank you David and all the EBPP staff for giving me the opportunity to contribute and providing me with such an amazing experience.