The Widhya Asih Foundation is a collection of 7 different orphanages and one office location spread out across the entire island of Bali. Since they are so spread out, we often start our days waking up early for breakfast and then heading out to one of the sites which can be anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours away. I have found this to be a great way to see the whole island even if it is only from a car window as we pass through towns. I would hardly call these drives relaxing though, as these roads have some of the craziest drivers I have ever seen. One of the locations we went to today, Bangli, is still a construction site. They have 25 kids at a temporary site nearby which is an old restaurant that contains two large dorm rooms. The plan is to have the new site up by June and they also would like to at least double the amount of kids they can take in as well. Bangli has quickly gathered a reputation among our group for being the most challenging site you can visit. As much as Bangli is physically exhausting, it is just as much mentally exhausting.
It can be so hard on you because throughout the other orphanages we have been working on the actual site where the children are staying. So no matter how much physical labor we are put through each day, we can all look forward to the breaks where we can hang out with the kids. We can spend time getting to know them, helping them practice English or even going out to a field to play soccer. At Bangli, however, there isn’t any of this - just straight work – and hard work.
At the site there are some workers who point out what they need us to do. The last few days, we’ve carried tile and dirt to the second story of the structure in 95 degree heat. We also learned how to mix concrete….by hand. Since the labor here is so cheap, about $4 per person per day, there is no reason for anyone to buy anything like a belt sander or cement mixer – they have the people do it themselves. This also meant that we were learning to do all these things by hand ourselves as well.
During one of our water breaks, I decided to walk around the place and check it out. In one of the rooms, I came across some pieces of ply wood leaning upright against each other. When I peeked inside, I discovered a pillow and blanket covering the dirt. Not only do these workers only get paid $4 a day to work construction for 8 hours in the heat, they also have to live onsite at night as security guards to keep their supplies protected. We found out later that everyone there does this year round. They move from site to site building houses and live onsite while they are there. It is kind of like being homeless except they have something to do during the day, and at $4 a day, it is a very small step up from living out on the streets.
In another room we come across a baby…yes, an infant. Lying on a piece of wood crying in the middle of the construction site. Her mother was in the shower at the time and her father was working and wasn’t allowed to take a break to tend to his child for even a minute. That for me was when it really hit home. It wasn’t just adult men living here as they work on site, it was families. This has redefined the words poor and needy for me.
Suddenly the break ends and I find myself with a new sense of purpose. The afternoon gets a little bit easier for me to get through because if I am able to do anything at all to help these guys then I am going to do it. If carrying four bags up a flight of stairs at a time instead of three means that these families can get a little extra time off, then that is what needs to be done.
I have really appreciated the time I have had getting to know the other board members and now we all have one major thing that will bond us together…..Bangli.