Ever wondered what it is like to come to Indonesia for a volunteer abroad programme or contribute your time to a worthy cause as a local expat in Jakarta?
International Humanity Foundation (IHF) is a not-for-profit children’s charity with ever growing projects in Indonesia, Thailand, and Kenya. Founded in 1985 by Carol Sasaki in the US, more than 1,000 children are now attending the organisation’s learning centres in six locations. In Indonesia, they have centres in Jakarta, Bali, Medan and Aceh. It is IHF’s mission to invest in children by providing them with a fundamental human right: education. In doing so they empower them with the skills and tools they need to overcome poverty and pursue rich and fulfilling lives, thereby becoming the leaders and pioneers of tomorrow.
IHF’s ‘target children’ are those from the poorest of the poor families, residing in overcrowded slums. By providing extra after school classes, they supplement the inadequate public education, and also offer motivation for children to stay at school. Through the Education Programme (TEP), they also offer financial support to keep children from having to leave school.
IHF for the last 25 years has evolved into an organisation whose operations are run almost completely by voluntary staff. Over the years, volunteers have stayed for periods of anywhere between one month and one year and many have provided their time through the ‘at-home volunteering’ option. Most volunteers, in addition to teaching responsibilities, help out with specific operational functions within the organisation like programme management, teacher training and curriculum, volunteer recruitment, university relations, fundraising, advocacy and finance. This policy is maintained year after year in order to keep its mission statement: “To educate, through real life experiences, not only our impoverished children, but also, equally, to educate many global citizens about the reality of impoverished communities and other cultures and to teach global leadership skills needed in the multi layered realities of running an NGO – (non governmental organisation) – in such environments”.
In today’s world where international volunteering is discussed in the same vein as ‘poverty tourism’, ‘money making industry’, IHF has leveraged its unique model and has been able to strike a very fine balance between the needs and impact in the community with needs and interests of the people working in the organisation, thereby making it a very attractive volunteering option for many reasons. Backed by a rigorous recruitment process, IHF has volontourist (2 weeks – 4 weeks), work study volunteers (4 weeks – 3 months), Co-Directors (minimum commitment of a year) and local volunteer options available to those who are committed to IHF’s cause and mission.
For Ayano Ogura, a long time volunteer at IHF (since 2008) from Japan/America, her decision to work with IHF was driven by her respect and admiration for the organisation’s CEO/Founder, Carol , with whom she interacted frequently at the San Diego headquarters. “I was instantly inspired by Carol’s passion, personality, and love for her IHF children,” she says. Ayano also chose IHF because of their belief in the power of grassroots and ability to influence change at that level. For many, it is IHF’s ability to keep volunteering costs so low that attracts potential overseas volunteers when other big organisations charge thousands of dollars for a one week stay.
For Julie (from England) and Thibault Michot (from France), Co-Directors at Bali and Jakarta, it was the state of education in the Country, coupled with the diverse responsibilities at IHF that attracted them to a small, grass-roots organisation and not big development agencies. IHF is also a perfect avenue for people who are taking a short career break, trying to make a career transition into education from another industry or enrich their current professional experience. Kate Bool (from England) saw the IHF opportunity as a way to fast-track her chances to work in a managerial setting in the education sector and leap frog her career to the next level. Tess Legge (From Australia), Co-Director at the Jakarta Centre is able to effectively utilise her background in Indonesian Studies from University of Melbourne to manage the day to day operations of the Centre as well as enhance programme efficiency by spearheading community outreach efforts to identify the most deserving students to enrol on the TEP programme.
IHF also provides a very conducive environment for proactive volunteers to identify ways to maximise the organisation’s impact on the children it serves. Sharon, a local volunteer in Jakarta and Rasika, a work-study volunteer from India both concur that their time at IHF gives them a chance to explore the need gaps within the education system here and identify how it can be effectively bridged through innovative programmes. Whether it is exploring a library initiative, piloting a life skills curriculum or even broaden the students’ cultural awareness through Bollywood and Balinese dance hobby classes, IHF management and staff are well aware that their mission should not stop at the frontier of education but should be tackled in a multi-perspective ‘holistic’ way.
The learning curve is extremely steep for most volunteers – whether it is pushing themselves out of their comfort zone culturally and personally by honing their intercultural skills; professionally by pushing themselves to teach first-generation learners, the experience is extremely rewarding. Most volunteers leave the Centre not only personally rewarded, but with a new family, a more open mind, a more loving heart and inspiration to be a torch-bearer of change advocating equity in access to better quality education for deserving children in Indonesia.
If you would like to get involved with IHF in Jakarta either through skills you have to offer or through a financial contribution, you can look them up at www.ihfonline.org ; email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and set up some time to visit their Centre in East Jakarta.