SOS Children’s Village Bali
The Beauty & Impact of the SOS Children’s Village in Bali, Indonesia
Kelly Potts’ story:
Being in Bali and experiencing life was more beautiful than I can put into words. Every step I took I was surrounded by the most breath-taking temples with the most ornate sculptures and architecture. People everywhere at any time of the day are placing offerings at every stoop of every house, store and temple. Inside these woven basket offerings: flowers, a small portion of food and burning incense. Offerings being washed ashore like seashells.
Between rows of skinny alleyways and shanty storefronts are multimillion dollar compounds, half-developed and awkward in their setting. Trash is burnt rather than collected, police do not exist, and driving from one location to the next is often a life or death situation.
But, as dirty and poor as some areas seemed to be, one thing I never saw during my trip to Bali was a homeless person. Every Balinese resident seemed to be taken care of and no one was wasted on drugs or alcohol.
When prAna took Amy Ippoliti and me to the SOS Children’s Village where orphaned kids lived, I was thrown aback to learn how these kids came to live there. My translation may not be a hundred percent accurate, but this is what I heard:
In Balinese culture, when a married couple has a child, and then decides to get divorced, it is up to the man to decide whether or not to take care of their child. If he decides not to take the child, the mother can then give the child over to the orphanage. Same if the father dies, the mother can give away the child. If the mother decides to take care of the child, and wants to remarry, the new family being married into can decide not to take in the child, in which case, the child is given to the orphanage.
Receiving this briefing upon arrival to the orphanage stamped a huge question mark on my expression. How could this tradition be apart of such a beautiful culture in Bali?
After learning this vital piece of information pertaining to these kids’ lives, Amy and I were taken on a tour of the grounds where we got the chance to interact with the youth. On the property sit 12 family houses where approximately 8 children live per home. An auntie lives in each unit to help take care of and raise each child. When I first stepped foot in one of these homes I was delighted to see how warm and welcoming it felt, with the kids’ drawings hung as decorations, the rooms well kept and smelling fresh. The kids were beaming with love and excitement at the sight of their visitors, and it didn’t take long before we were surrounded by a group of kids, all wanting to hug, hold hands, play with our hair, and practice their English on us.
Being a lover of sports, and supporter of kids playing outside, I was thrilled to see one of the most impressive playgrounds, and multiple recreational fields. The playground was made from recycled and natural materials and looked like something you’d see in a training course for the military (minus the use of weapons). It was a full obstacle course where kids could climb up, traverse across, swing from, and crawl through to the finish line. The course was one of the most original ideas I’d ever seen, and looked like anyone could have gathered the materials from their immediate surroundings to make it. This sparked some inspirational ideas to bring home with me.
With Bali being so lush and tropical, the soccer fields scattered throughout the property were vibrant and perfectly manicured. I kept asking the kids if they had a ball we could kick around. Then I came across the volleyball court. I’ve played volleyball for years and is my favorite team sport, so I was ecstatic to see they played in this remote (to me) part of the world. I looked at the young girls blessed with height and long legs and encouraged them to play. I never did get my hands on a ball while I was there, but I hope they saw my desire to want to play and were motivated to play themselves.
Towards the end of our visit we went to an open-air building with a stage toward the front. The guests were invited to sit around while the boys commenced playing music with the most unfamiliar instruments, as the girls did a traditional Balinese dance. Amy and I were taken by the hand onto the stage to learn their dance, which of course led to hysterical bouts of laughter, the permanent grin aching every muscle on my bright red face.
Amy and I sat around getting our hair braided, the kids taking turns sitting next to us, holding our hands, staring at our unfamiliar skin colors, listening to our unfamiliar accents trying to replicate their Balinese words. It was a learning experience for all of us.
As we drove off in our little mini van we could see the kids’ look of dismay, and at the same time they looked unsurprised. Once again, they were left behind. And it’s back to life as usual at the orphanage.
Waving goodbye out the back of the van and seeing the look on their faces as we drove away, made me feel sorrow that they don’t have their parents to raise them. But at the same time I felt joy for them because of the beautiful place they lived, the elders that gave them so much love and joy everyday, and the opportunities they get from living in such a place where people from around the world come to visit and look out for their futures. I felt reassured that these kids were going to do just fine in the world.
~ Kelly Potts, prAna Ambassador
Amy Ippoliti’s story:
In Bali, despite the hustle and bustle of the scooters and traffic, you cannot drive down the street without seeing at least five women pausing during their day to make an offering to a shrine. As part of their worship they gather flower petals, lime, crackers, and greenery and weave baskets to hold the offerings that are brought to the shrine (or car dash board, on the street, or in doorways) sometimes as often as three times a day. There was so much to look at, take in, and behold in Bali – we did not know where to look first.
But the experience I’ll remember most about my trip with prAna was our visit to the SOS Children’s Village.
prAna is now a benefactor for this orphanage and we were eager to explore.
We had the opportunity to get to know some irresistible kids growing up in community on their lovely lush property. I even got to meet a 12-year old girl who was studying yoga and entering Asian yoga competitions. She showed me a photo album of her extremely bendy poses and we did Bakasana together on her front porch.
Before long, Kelly and I were surrounded by little girls holding our hands and snuggling up, the boys were playing music in an ensemble, and others were gathering around the iPhone to take selfies.
What struck me most about the experience was seeing so many children in one place without families and the look of longing in their eyes for love, affection, attention and care. The children were polite, welcoming and gracious – and some part of me knew they would make it just fine in the world.
The SOS staff and volunteers are true heroes to take on the care of this many children and they do an exceptional job, but like any heroic endeavor, they need more help, more hands and more love.
I am so grateful that prAna has chosen to support the SOS Children’s Village and I could not be more honored to work with a company that, as part of it’s culture, values the support of organizations like these who are committed to making this world a kinder, more loving and conscious place to be.
It was so meaningful to share this experience with prAna ambassador, Kelly Potts and the prAna team… an experience I will not soon forget…
~ Amy Ippoliti, prAna Ambassador