Day 11: Wednesday 22nd April, 2015
(Note: If you are considering any volunteer work overseas please stay safe, read our blog disclaimer and consider your personal decisions carefully. Also consider that volunteering with a family in tow, involves far more considerations, compromises and sacrifices, than that of a solo traveller).
We had contacted our next Sumatran host Yoan when we were still in Perth. She ran a tiny education program in her village, holding classes for two hours per day in the front room of her home but also around the village in the open air. Her free community school also developed a small school garden, and occasionally invites international volunteers to assist. We would surf in her home and teach both the classes during our stay. So on that bright morning, we were picked up by the Taxi driver with whom we had negotiated hard the night before and set off to finally meet her.
Over the years our travel philosophy has changed. We now try to do some volunteering, as a family, on all of our adventures. We believe that we need to contribute as global citizens and we want to instill in our children that responsible travel should always try to embrace volunteering. We are not believers in ‘voluntourism’, as we believe that ultimately it does more harm than good. We try and choose grass roots organisations, where the benefits of our service are apparent and immediate.
The vital truth about volunteering, that most people fail to understand, is that despite any service, time or practical contribution you make; if you are truly engaged, than you personally gain more emotionally and educationally than you can ever hope to give.
That despite any good service or practical help you provide, it is the breaking down of stereotypes, the empathy, the motivational strengthening of the participants and the lives touched, which are the true legacy.
This was certainly true in this case and we were deeply honoured to spend a short time in this tiny Indonesian community. Yoan and her family are inspirational. They use their small resources and endeavour to make the world a better place for their family, their community and beyond. The children we taught were also absolutely amazing. Our boys got a tiny insight into a life so very different from their own, they were embraced so readily as one of the tribe and they loved it.
When we finally arrived in the small town of Bukit Lawang we were claimed by a man who we believed to be Yoan’s husband. He took us to a restaurant before Yoan’s real husband appeared and directed us to another restaurant. It is a small world here and everyone knows everyone. Soon as always we were feasting.
Bukit Lawang is small yet visually charming. We instantly fell in love with it. Huge trees with a fast flowing broad river at it’s heart – the Bohorok. (This same river had totally destroyed the entire village in a flash flood in 2003). Simple yet grand suspension bridges linking the two sides. Here you return to a slower, happier pace of life where people are quick to help and community is at the heart of the people. With our hunger satisfied, we and our luggage were bundled into two becaks for the short drive out to the village.
We were generously welcomed into Yoan’s lovely grass woven home and given the best they could offer. We walked around the simple village and soon discovered the house where all the boys play video games, where several old TV’s and consoles reside. (More kids watching than playing).
There is a small community shop – a tiny stall – where young and old go to meet and share news. The vegtable gardens and stream. Of course at its center, the sepak takraw court, a spectacular venue to contests of bold, young male skill, agility and strength.
Takraw is the Thai word for the hand-woven rattan ball originally used in the game. Therefore, the game is essentially “kick ball”. The sepak takraw sport is played on a similar to badminton double sized court.The net shall be made of fine ordinary cord or nylon with 6 cm to 8 cm mesh. Similar to a volleyball net. The sepak takraw ball shall be spherical, made of synthetic fibre or one woven layer. A match is played by two teams, also known as ‘regus’, each consisting of three players. One of the three players shall be at the back; he is called a “Tekong”. The other two players shall be in front, one on the left and the other on the right. The player on the left is called a “Left Inside” and the player on the right is called a “Right Inside”. The side that must serve first shall start the first set. The side that wins the first set shall have the options of “Choosing Service”.
During the service, as soon as the Tekong kicks the ball, all the players are allowed to move about freely in their respective courts. The service is valid if the ball passes over the net, whether it touches the net or not, and inside the boundary of the two net tapes and boundary lines of the opponent’s court. An official doubles or regu match is won by best of three sets (win 2 out of 3 sets), with each set being played up to 21 points. A team event or group match is effectively three regu matches played back to back, using different players for each regu. The winner is determined by best of three regus (win 2 out of 3 regus), where a winner of each individual regu is determined by best of 3 sets, played up to 21 points per set. In the last 3rd set the change of sides takes place when one team reaches 11 points. – Wiki
Here we felt safe. Our boys had already been accepted and ran feely through the village with the other children. For the next couple of days, we were home.