Bali Children Foundation supports Balinese children in remote, rural areas of Bali by providing education for a brighter future.
Bali Children Foundation (BCF) was founded by local businesswoman Margaret Barry, better known as Marg, in 2003. It is an education-based yayasan (charity) based in the north and north-west areas of Bali.
“After the first Bali bomb, I volunteered, like many in Bali, to help in any way possible. We all—locals, expats and tourists—worked to help the many injured,” Marg explained when asked what gave her the urge to start BCF. “We managed to get everyone that needed and wanted to go, out of Bali within 24 hours. I saw the cooperation amongst us all and thought, what worthwhile purpose could I put this good example to, to help the Bali community.”
“I grew up in a small remote country area in Victoria, Australia and I saw my father help our local community, witnessing what one man’s effort in a relatively short life could achieve. He died when I was only 15 and I was the eldest of six children,” Marg continued. “Firstly, I wondered what would make the most difference here in Bali where I have spent the last 20 years. It had to be education, which would give the children from poor, disadvantaged areas access to the best jobs in Bali. This was a way out of poverty.”
Now, 12 years on, Bali Children Foundation has over 1,000 children on scholarships, including 10 students in tertiary education.
The majority of the Foundation’s work is in remote communities on poor agricultural land amongst the hills of north and north-west Bali. When BCF first started to work in the area, the drop-out rate was at grade six. Working with community leaders and families, they have developed successful strategies to keep the children at school, not just to junior high school, but to senior high school and to post-secondary education.
How does it all work? Village by village: after selecting a village with disadvantaged families, local Balinese staff members work with the village leadership (Kepala Desa and Kelian of each banjar) to introduce families to BCF and the opportunities the scholarships provide. The families commit to supporting their child throughout their school year. The children agree to attend school and work hard. This is a major cultural agreement and is vital to BCF’s success.
The scholarship contributes to school fees, uniforms, shoes and socks, books, school bags, stationary – all the basics the child needs to support them through school.
“This is an opportunity for me to achieve my dreams that I thought were impossible”
One of the major components of BCF’s success is their after-school classes. Each child receives lessons in English language, focusing on spoken English. The older children receive computer lessons in specially set-up school rooms with fourteen computers.
The teachers for these lessons are provided by BCF. The children are taught by qualified young graduates or post graduates, who relate well to the children. The children can also attend clubs led by skilled teachers, in Balinese classical singing, modern and traditional dancing and silat, a traditional martial art.
For more than 12 years, Bali Children Foundation has worked hard to achieve their aims and their hard work has paid off. In the 2013-14 school year they had zero dropout at elementary school and less than one percent all the way through to year 12.
Last year, 69 children graduated from high school, nine went on to tertiary studies on BCF scholarships and two were on government scholarships – the rest are in good paying jobs. In the work group, 90% are employed within 60 days of graduating.
Ida Ayu Putu Fitriyani (Fitri) was one of the first students who went on to graduate from university and is now working for BCF. “I am a Balinese girl from Singaraja, North Bali,” Fitri says when asked about her background. “I am 22 years old and the eldest of one brother and two sisters. BCF sponsored me when I was in year 11, at High School,” Fitri explains. “My mother is a housewife and my father is a labourer. We were very poor. BCF sponsored me until I finished university in UNDIKSHA with Informatics Management Diploma. During my studies, BCF gave me the opportunity to be an assistant English teacher and also to teach basic computer skills to other sponsored children. I graduated from University in July 2013.”
Fitri is now employed with BCF in their service area as a district field data co-ordinator. “BCF has changed my life into something valuable for my future. This is an opportunity for me to achieve my dreams that I thought were impossible,” she concluded.
Fitri is just one of the many children sponsored by BCF that have gone from living in poor and disadvantaged villages, with very little opportunity, to advancing beyond the village to a brighter future.
Bali Children Foundation relies on support from individuals and the business world both here and overseas. Sponsors provide for the cost of the students. Most sponsors have one child while there are businesses and organisations that support up to 150 children. Sponsorship is a long-term commitment, from the beginning until the child finishes high school.
For more information, visit www.balichildrenfoundation.org