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Bill & Yvonne Mayes' Bali trip


Recently Yvonne and I were fortunate enough to have a couple of weeks on the island of Bali, Indonesia, a place visited by thousands of Australian tourists each year. 


The trip had a forgettable start with Adelaide Airport fogged in, causing us a five hour delay.  Then, on arrival at Denpasar’s Ngurah Ria Airport, somebody preferred Yvonne’s suitcase to their own.  Thankfully, it was returned by next morning, much to Yvonne’s disappointment.  She was looking forward to a shopping spree to replace the missing clothing etc.


Of course, like most of the tourists, we visited Kuta and Kuta Beach, Sanure and its resorts, shopping and beaches.  We ran the gauntlet of the shop- and stall-holders in the so called Kuta Square, which isn’t a square but a junction of streets, and even after a bit of haggling purchased a few items for our grandchildren.


Sanur Beach, Bali.    

Photo: Dan Arndt  [GNU Free Documentation License]


But our main reason for the journey was to assist, if possible, our friends Richard and Vicki.  Those two amazing people spend about  eight months of the year in Bali helping needy Balinese children and families.  To this end they head a small organization they have named Bali Care.  The Lobethal Uniting Church donated a generous amount of funds to Bali Care, so we as members of the church were eager to see for ourselves how this was being used.


As we were staying with Richard and Vicki we were to learn of the multiple problems they faced daily.  The main underlying problem was that ,as foreigners, they were not encouraged by the authorities to be involved in or to carry out any duty that may deprive a local of a job.  Therefore, most of the organization had to be channelled through local contacts, consequently everything moved in Bali time, and small jobs that the average handyman would complete in a day took up to a week, or more.


Our first visit was to Bali Care House.  A recently acquired house, rented for five years, (A$800 per year, all rent in advance,) to accommodate homeless families.  It wasn’t the standard of home we would be comfortable with nor would it pass Council inspection. However, a group from the Hope Valley Uniting Church had been at the house and had scrubbed walls, painted ceilings and walls, and generally cleaned the place out.  The owner had fixed the leaking roof and local builders were tiling all floors and installing plumbing.  When completed this abode will house six adults and ten children.  It is hoped these families will be able to find employment and alternative accommodation in the near future, enabling other families to benefit as they have.


Yvonne and Bill Mayes in Bali


The next place to visit was the Denpasar Rubbish Dump.  Hardly the top tourist attraction.  Smelly, loaded with flies, but home to a number of families whose subsistence relies on  collecting recyclables and other saleable rubbish.  These people live in homes built from iron and timber scavenged from the dump and have few amenities. We were told of a woman who, sifting through the rubbish and finding a bag of prawn heads, took them home, boiled them and used the juice to flavour the evening  rice meal.  I’m sure that Bali-belly would be the least of our troubles should we try that.  But the reason we were at the dump was to see and deliver provisions to a new school, built in the dump for the benefit of the children of families living there and nearby.  The children attending the school are aged 4-5 years.  It is apparently a Government requirement that children attend pre-school training before being allowed to enroll in ‘free’ primary schools  however no pre-school funding is available.  This school was built on land leased for 15 years by Bali Care and built by volunteers from Australia.  It has two classrooms and, by holding several sessions daily, enables the 59 enrolled students to attend.  All of the students are sponsored and Bali Care pays for the maintenance of the building, cleaning, provisions, drinking water, students’ uniforms and classroom needs. 

We watched as proud parents arrived to collect their children at the end of a session, and some even watched through the windows, following the lesson, endeavouring to receive a little education of their own.  The enthusiasm of the little children seemed to show that they appreciated the opportunity to learn.  The quality of the school is such that some families, well able to afford to educate their children, are, through devious means, trying to access this facility.

Another school, this one up in the mountains, has a dirt floor, no walls and a tarpaulin for a roof, is the next project for Bali Care.  There are 77 children attending this school.  It is hoped that at least a cement slab and a roof will be in place by the end of this year.  Problems associated with authorities appear to be slowing progress.  Pencils and pencil cases are currently being supplied to these students, and even noodles for meals, thanks to Bali Care.


At Munti Gunung, again in the mountains, there are two Government-owned primary schools.  Forty-five of the students there are sponsored, having their uniforms, school fees, books and vitamins provided.  If their sponsorship ceased it is probable that the parents would withdraw the children from the school and send them to the city streets to beg.


I saw such a child as we drove through the city, a girl of about 8 years of age.  She was standing at the side of a busy road and as we stopped in traffic she walked to the side of our car, not saying anything, but just staring in the window.  She was unwashed and untidy, but it wasn’t her appearance that got to me, it was the lack of expression on her face.  There was no life in her eyes, no hope. Who knows how long she had been without a drink or food, and her loving parents probably instructed her not to return without money.  Children like her are likely victims of foreign paedophiles.

Rice field at entrance to Gunung Kawi temple, Tampaksiring, Bali
One of the orphanages we visited takes in street kids and at the time we were there 21 children were in care, although two had gone missing.  These kids were provided with a clean bed, good food, some schooling and are taught to make cards and toys.  These items are sold to help maintain the home with some money going to the parents to prevent them taking their children and putting them back on the streets.  Whilst there we delivered bags and cases of clothing for the children, much of which had come from Australian donors.  Many people donate to such a project and Richard and Vicki, as Bali Care, are happy to be used as a conduit for this purpose.  The children we spoke to had beautiful smiles, were polite and welcoming as we toured their ‘home’.  The lady, Putu, who managed the orphanage, was a mother to these children and they clearly appreciated the love and care they received.

Of course we saw many other sights, the rice paddies, the active volcano (sometimes), the many ceremonies in the streets, temples, and of course we sampled many of the local food items.


We also heard the many dogs and roosters and saw the thousands of motor cycles in the congested traffic.  In all it was a great experience.  I can only hope that the contributions from the many caring Australians are helping those young Balinese to a brighter future.