Every July, for the past 5 years, Retta Jitner and volunteers from America and Bali have been distributing uniforms and backpacks full of school supplies to children on the island of Bali. Loretta’s charity, Pencils for Kids, Inc. (www.pencilsforkidsinc.com) is based in Los Angeles and is dedicated to providing needy school-aged children with the basics required in order for them to attend school.
As a board member of Pencils for Kids, Inc. this July I had the thrill of visiting Bali for the first time, while joining in the fulfilling process of providing over 830 beautiful children with backpacks full of hopes and dreams. Wow!….The sweet and gentle people of Bali; the magnificent beauty of the island; the warm and sincere thank you’s (“terima-kasih”) from each child, each parent, each teacher all made my heart sing a melody I have never experienced before……
“Bali Ha’i May call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you’ll hear it
call you: ‘Come away…Come away’”
As corny as it seems, all through the long flights from Los Angeles to Taipei and from Taipei to Denpasar that song repeated in my mind. Upon arrival, the congested sights and cacophony of sounds of the airport didn’t give me a clue about the beauty of the island and the sweetness of the people that I was about to experience. Within an hour after touchdown and after a very friendly greeting at The Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa I was walking along the golden beach in front of the hotel….and that evening, dinner grilled on gorgeous Jimbaran Beach completed my transformation into the heaven-on-earth that is Bali.
The next day, over 30 volunteers from the hotel and around the island came to fill the backpacks (made in Indonesia) with all of the supplies shipped from the US. We formed an assembly line and with lots of laughter and fun the job was completed in about two hours. The next four days were long, but joyful, as we left the comfort of the hotel by 8:00am and drove on paved roads and dirt trails to villages from the city of Denpasar the mountain village of Jatiluwuh, to Ubud to Munduk Village…lakes and mountains, beaches filled with docked boats, monkeys on the side of the road, spice markets and temples…all leading us to school rooms filled with excited and beautiful children who were thrilled by our arrival and grateful for our gifts. Many classes had prepared special dances, or songs, or greetings for us and they all performed with nervous pride and sincere warmth. Many had practiced saying, “thank you’, in English and all seemed so very grateful…for some, this was the only gift they would receive all year. In some places, the entire village came to greet us. At other stops, the parents came to cheer us on and to personally thank us. Some prepared special refreshments and one town made us an elaborate lunch.
We met teachers who work for little pay, with dedication and self-satisfaction, to educate the kids. We met a couple who founded and run 3 schools, charge the families nothing and support this effort on their own; another couple who run an orphanage for kids of all ages; a native of Bali who grew up in a poor village, became a successful businessman an is giving back by founding and funding schools. One small village was so grateful that they gave us a gift of two bags of coconuts. Each day ended after sun down, but was filled with love and joy.
I left for home feeling so blessed to have had this experience, yet frustrated in knowing that I only scratched the surface of Bali and I shall always find special meaning in the lyrics:
“If you try, you’ll find me
Where the sky meets the sea.
‘Here am I your special island
Come to me, Come to me.'”
Pencils for Kids, Inc., Executive Advisory Board