By Berit Nielsen, nutritional volunteer in EBPP Health Team
September 2012.

When you visit The Village of Ban, you have been torn away from the well-known, tourist-influenced Bali. Up here the village life is not affected by tour guides, sellers, big resorts or tourists for that matter. No, here you find, what I think, is the closest you come to “original” Balinese village life. These people live their lives here, some places with very limited resources, such as safe drinking water. Yet the people are welcoming and especially the children are smiling, happy and eager to learn.

The landscape is breathtaking!

Each hamlet has its own special view of Mount Agung or Mount Abang. There is something magical about being right in the middle of the valley of these two mountains, as they proudly reach the sky around you. Especially Mount Agung is alluring and it has also great significance in Balinese Hinduism and is looked upon as sacred which makes you even more drawn to it.

The Village of Ban is located at the very slopes of the two mountains and 19 small hamlets are scattered around the area. I first visited the village in August 2012, and it is very hard to imagine the sight that must have met David Booth, the Founder of the East Bali Poverty Project, when he first got here in the 1990s. A lot has improved and it is amazing how much has been achieved over the last 14 years, since the EBPP started. A lot of different programs have started within the last year; the ear, nose and throat program, pap smears for women, university education for one EBPP’s Cegi School graduates in Fine Arts, to name a few.

I joined the EBPP Health Team in the beginning of August 2012, to volunteer as a nutritionist focusing on the EBPP schools – the school lunch provided of the organization, and the general health status among the school children. It is very giving to work together with the children, and everyone is curious and interested. These children do not have much, and nevertheless they know that the root to improve their living standards is through education, and you feel that the very instance you enter the schools. The laughter from a child is the best sound in the world, and I feel lucky to listen to that every time I visit the schools.

I was offered to stay and live very close to the EBPP Headquarters. From day one, I felt welcome and every EBPP staff has been very helpful, kind, and I really enjoy staying here. It is giving in the way that you are right there where it all happens, and you really get under the layers of how everything works.

I am working together with all the very qualified EBPP staff, but I mainly work close together with EBPP’s local nutritionist, Sinta Ardiani, who is more than willing to help, translate and accompany me around the hamlets. We have been collecting samples of the school lunches to determine the nutritional value and we are planning a workshop for the local women who cook the food for each of EBPP’s 6 schools, so they can share experiences and get some good advice to make the lunches even better.

We also measure the anthropometric values of every school child, and make an assessment to the ones that appear to be malnourished so we can make the right follow up. Besides this we are planning to investigate the eating habits of the children to be able to provide the best nutritional guidance for them and their families.

It is an extraordinary opportunity the work so close together with a local community, and to try to help where it is needed. It really expands my personal cultural understanding and teaches me to work in an intercultural content too. Originally I am from Denmark, and have been studying Nutrition and Health at a Danish university, with a great interest in anthropology combined with nutritional studies, and so my stay here, to be able to help people and learn at the same time, is remarkable.

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