Manataka American Indian Council
The Children of Puakan
They are winners, AGAIN! For the second time, Puakan’s children, ages infant to 5 years have won the Indonesian Health competition! Puakan, a remote farming village does not even appear on many maps of Bali but we are definitely “on the map” now!
This summer when the children were entered in the competition by the Government health service, (Puskesmas Sekeliling) and the women’s association, which monitors health records, (Pos Yandu) the Camat of Tegallalang, (the head of our district) and the Bupati of Gianyar, (the head of our Regency) came with their attending staffs to ceremonies marking the occasion. A small number of the children danced in greeting.
The children of Puakan are a real credit to their government, their families and especially to all those who have funded the Milk Aid program which made them candidates for this nation wide competition.
Many thanks to Betty Steinhauer and the People Bridge Charitable Foundation of Toronto, Ruth and Peter Little and the Rotary Club of Rosanna Australia. And how grateful we are to so many individuals especially Ray Kelsey of Rosanna Australia who has almost single handedly kept the program afloat for most of the past year.
Regrettably I must now suspend the program for lack of funding, but the good news is that many families in Puakan are now able to afford a box of dried vitamin fortified milk each month. Importantly they have seen the benefits that milk and vitamins bring to their children. The children who just won the health competition have been receiving milk aid their entire lives!
Should there be any children in need of milk aid whose families cannot afford it, I am confident that either I and/or the Pos Yandu will be able to supply it. It is naturally the goal of any of my programs that they become a part of the village and be supported by it.
The school in Puakan services three villages. It has a library but it contains only texts, no storybooks or encyclopedias. Parents have told me that when they were in school, books with traditional Balinese stories were available. These facts in addition to the fixation of children with television and cellphones inspired me to launch a reading club.
Members received a t-shirt if they read 10 books or listened to 10 stories. Little notebooks were distributed so the children could record what they had read. I already had many books for the children, in Indonesian and Balinese but needed to buy more.
I designed the t-shirt and named the reading club after the white owl that lived and was loved in Puakan two years before. It became YANPU KLUB MEMBACA.
I invited Pak Made Taro, children’s storyteller and author to award the tee shirts and what an exciting day it was! Reading is now back in style and nearly 150 t-shirts have been awarded over the summer! Pak Taro displayed the shirt and discussed my reading program at a symposium of librarians from Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan. He claimed the participants were “inspired.”
So many thanks to Christy Gray and her Tribe in Athens Ga., Dr. Karen Maffei, also of Athens and Jan Logan of Merida, Mexico whose generous contributions purchased books and tee shirts, making the reading club a reality. I hope a reading area will later be incorporated into the library of the school. My hope for the coming year is a tree planting club - Yanpu Klub Kayu! With t-shirt of course!
Each year I take a number of children to the Bali Art Festival so they can witness the amazing competition between regencies of their dance and gamelan associations. Thousands of Balinese attend and cheer their artists. Kadek Martin, dance teacher at my house for the boys is always a part of the competition and so far, his association, (sanggar) has always won! One of the dances performed was a story about Ganesha, the very loved elephant god. A member of the reading club found the story in a book and was thrilled. This added to the renewed interest in reading!!!!!!
Subsequently, the children decided to do their own dance/drama about Ganesha for a celebration at my house. With the help of both
Kadek and Wayan, dance teacher for the girls this was a “hit” enjoyed by more than 70 guests!
So very many thanks to Karen Waddell for her continued support of the dance program which brings so much joy and culture to Puakan and its children!! AND the many villages where they have been invited to perform!
Our dance and arts association, Sanggar Bintang Pelangi was honored at a ceremony for a new gamelan in the large town of Mambal.
The children, all wearing their reading club tee shirts felt very special.
I think they especially liked the box dinners they were served! And I was personally honored when publicly thanked for supporting and encouraging Balinese culture. The children were also lavishly fed at a ceremony for a new house where they danced in the street!
How delighted I was when asked to host a special program created by EduCare, an Australian foundation. For several Sundays, Perdana Skolastika and his staff of Balinese college students, (from Campuhan College, Karuna Foundation) shared techniques for learning English with Puakan’s older children and taught them about cooperative learning, team spirit and self esteem. Teachers and students alike were radiant at the end of each session!
This seems to be the year of being honored! Once again I was asked to give a speech to the graduating sixth grade, the highest grade at Puakan’s school. Generally I talk about environmental issues but this year I posed the question, “Why do thousands of people from around the world want to visit Bali?” I suggested they are seeking inspiration and that Balinese have a responsibility to guide visitors and at the same time protect their culture. I am happy to report the village heads were very pleased with this talk! As in other years, some of the children danced for the occasion.
It seems everywhere in the world snakes are killed heedlessly and needlessly if they so much as make an appearance. That is the case in Puakan. Agricultural areas really need snakes to help control the rodent population, so for several years I have sought a snake “expert” to help the children understand snakes and get over their fears of them. Luckily I found Peter Nicholson and his Dayak assistant Shinta who run a reptile rescue service and the school agreed to let them speak in the classroom. They arrived on a motorcycle holding backpacks bulging with snakes. They immediately handed me a lovely yellow snake that I “wore” as a necklace into class. About 10 minutes after shrieks and all faculty and children plastered against the furthest walls, most children were happy to handle the pythons and other snakes. They learned there are 40 species of snakes in Bali and only 5 are poisonous and what to do when seeing a snake – leave it alone and walk away. Hopefully their approach to snakes will be more intelligent and less fearful. Pak Gusti principal of the school is probably holding his breath wondering what program I will bring to his doors next year!
The Sunday program at my home continues as usual with children starting to arrive at 7am. There are books, toys, games and art supplies. One of the staff, Pari, a young mother reads stories to the children or I sing with them until 9 when the two dance teachers arrive. Generally there are between 50 and 60 children ages 3 to 14 present. Those not dancing enjoy the other resources available. The lunch I provide at 12 concludes the program except for some girls who want to continue knitting. This year thanks to Farland in Ubud, its manager Putu and owner, Antonella the girls made more than$200 from the sales of their knitted scarves. Additionally, the staff are making small income from the produce we grow and sell at the organic markets in Ubud. There is a photo of Ibu Made holding a sculpture-like ginger root that none of us could bear to cut up!
Just as I was leaving in October, the children danced in a temple ceremony in Puakan. How proud I am of them. They have learned so much, so well and are so happy with themselves and each other!
Each year new dances are introduced, new talent appears and new skills are mastered. At the same time new costumes need to be repaired, purchased or rented and make-up artists employed for performance. Toys such as Lego blocks and puzzles and “stuffies” constantly need to be replaced or repaired. I had a delightful and enthusiastic audience this summer while sewing ears back on a stuffed lion! And yes, yarn, art supplies and books are always needed! And then there is our old truck, still chugging along but needing assistance! And yes there are ducks and geese, dogs and the amazing wreathed hornbill named Biggi!
And nothing at all would be possible without the wonderful team of profoundly caring and hard working people who work with me!
Children who want to join are arriving from other villages. Success, with its added demands has become expensive. And as I am sure you know, prices are rising too! And so my begging bowl is once again extended to you with the hope that you will think of these wonderful children again as the new year begins.
With loving thanks
And big best wishes for a Happy New Year,
Send Contributions to:
189 Fortson Circle
Athens, Ga. 30606
PS The rental of my beautiful house, Casa Claire in the charming city of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico helps to support all the above!
You can see it on http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/110946.html Why not plan a vacation in Merida!
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