The greatest gift we could ever wish for

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It is now a few months later. Back in the Netherlands and it’s already spring. We are going to write a sentimental story here so be prepared haha. Many people in our surroundings notice that if we are a few months back then we have already landed in the Netherlands, but we wish we could agree with that. It is becoming difficult to be back and that feeling keeps increasing. We notice that in the little things. At first it felt like we were still connected to everything that happened in Ubud, and it seemed like Ubud was around the corner. Now it really feels like a place on the other side of the world. Everything goes through here in the Netherlands and also in Ubud, and when we get pictures of the dogs they look completely different than in our memory. In our memory they are puppies and now they are teenagers! Time has flown so fast. Life here in the Netherlands, is normal again and we noticed yesterday that we are already thinking about what we should do next week instead of what we have to do on the day itself. Yet we are glad that the loss is not a negative emotion that is in us. It is a loss in the form of gratitude. Grateful for the people we have met who are all beautiful personalities, thankful that we have seen such a beautiful nature and environment and have been closer to nature than ever, grateful for the fact that we had forgotten the whole concept of money at some point, grateful for all the experiences that we have been able to gain and most of all, grateful for the family that we have been able to set up and have been able to enjoy with. But we also feel other emotions. Emotions of sadness when we look at how society works in here. People who have headphones on and have no conversations with each other. They all run somewhere because they have to be there. People who say ‘why, and how are you going to do that?’ to each other when someone suggests an idea or a dream. Or people who are making plans a week before to paint their walls and see it as a new start. And a few expressions of creativity but that is very rare. Doing things because you have to, and not because you feel like it. And people who buy stuff to experience that satisfying feeling of ‘something new’ for a moment. Getting rid of the daily grind that has become a loupe by now. The people are burned out here, and they are blowing each other out. Who puts anyone on fire here?

Yet we are glad that we now see these things more than before. We see what we can fight for, and where we can make others aware of and hopefully inspire others. We will always say: make that trip to another country for a longer period, because it makes you look at your own country differently. We see the Netherlands now in a more critical way and we can also see what we can all work on together. The Netherlands is a very progressive country, woman-friendly, has a good care system and offers almost everyone good opportunities to study. And therefore, indirectly this opportunity for us to make this trip, which is fantastic. We were often shocked in Bali when we met people of our age who wanted to study so badly but it was simply not possible because they had no money. Children who are tired of learning, here in their seats in the classroom and do not want to go to school because they have to, and in Indonesia, children who want to learn so much that they keep whirling around you until you teach them something and record everything you say as sponges. What is that with that must and want. And why do we have to do things in the Netherlands? And why can’t we do things because we want to do it?

We were able to learn about the Balinees culture in a unique way. Hinduism is very noticeable in the way of life of every Balinese, and everyone is very thoughtful, calm and patient. Patience is also a very nice thing in Bali. And that is a nice feature to us. Because everyone is so patient, nobody gets mad at each other, and nobody feels a pressure. Julian sometimes joked with us: ‘You’re not stressed, are you?’ and what we have learned from him is: if it does not work today then it will succeed tomorrow. Something that goes completely against our upbringing. It was therefore very special to note that we have experienced almost no fear of failure during the execution of the project. We never doubt the project would not be okay, because it would be okay. And if not, we found another way to make it work. We have completely let go of things. We let go of things the way we wanted to, because every day it was still different, and something came up one way or another. Yet this was sometimes difficult, because everything was always being moved to tomorrow and we sometimes really had to finish things. Sometimes frustrating, but in the end, we just laughed at it. Because sometimes things just go the way they go.

 ‘’Yet I have run into things of myself. Because I sometimes started to live completely in the moment and adapted myself to the quiet life style, I often forgot things that I had to do, so I ended up getting problems. I often had the feeling of ‘uh oh, I forgot’, instead of ‘this we will do today’ moments, so I felt in my regular pattern, being a follower and going into the shadows. Although, this has not been at the expense of the project, and together we have achieved a lot within a short time, in my opinion. And together Merel and I can concur the world. Thank you for bringing me with you and give me confidence to take this step. We are so strong and have grown so much and were able to put each other in our strengths! We had ups and downs, but that made us so much stronger as two individuals and as a team. Thank you.’’ Simone

The best thing we take with us is that we were able to inspire others with our project. Think of the teachers who know more about their pupils, have started looking at their pupils differently and see the value of creative resources to get stories in sight. Or Reza, who became more aware of his role in society and striving for more equality in Indonesia. The whole experience in Indonesia has meant so much to us as a person. We see more than ever before the value of Social and Cultural Development work, because We really experienced how it was to see people’s faces that were appreciated for who they are for once. And to see the pride of their faces and to see them confidently. And to see people moved and come closer together through these shared feelings.

‘’Through this project I have come to realize even more how many lovely people live in this world. This makes me feel strong and I am driven to do even more social projects. I have become much more aware of myself and learned a lot from the whole process. It almost feels like a fairy tale, a memory because we were in such a gigantic flow that it almost feels like we were high during the process. I am grateful that Simone and I were able to do this together. Simone could always bring things back to a positive and realistic perspective. I think we are a good combination of fire and water that complement each other well. Thank you for always being there.At the end of August I will go back to Indonesia for a year and I am curious where my life goes afterwards. I let myself be guided by what comes my way and take everything I have learned with me on my journey.’’ Merel

We still cannot say that it was our project because it was ‘OUR’ project. And with us we mean: everyone who helped with this. Rina, Made, Ayu mi, Mang Ayu, Shanti, Diego, Dewa, who respected us and gave us the insight that fun and having fun is incredibly important. The students from Sjaki – Tari – Us, who are so pure and loveable and enthusiastic about the project. Julian with his humor but a soft-boiled egg on the inside and Iluh with her heart in the right place who have behaved and guided us. They are two beautiful personalities, with all the goodness of the world and also trying to use this goodness to make the world a better place. Incredibly admirable how they deal with the culture differences, and never forget their purpose. Keep learning things and go to Sjaki-Us every day with energy. And Thijs who told us at the beginning of our project that we can do this and gave us the opportunity to take on this challenge. And Toinette. The most fantastic companion you could wish for! She made sure that we dreamed, but that we also made these dreams concrete again. Together with us she has shaped the project and encouraged us in such a good way to continue that we never doubted giving up. She gave us the confidence to handle it with both hands, but she also gave us the confidence that sometimes you cannot do more, than just what you are doing. And that is sometimes enough too. And Merry who inspired us with her thoroughness and probably being the strongest female Balinese is in Bali. Ibnu and Ayu who adopted our children and are the sweetest and most inspiring people I have ever met. How happy we are that Lulu and Luna ended up with this family. Never thought that these two creatures would mean so much to us. We miss you so much Lulu and Luna and cannot wait to see you again. Reza who received us with a smile the first day in Ubud. You are so smart, and we hope you can travel again soon. Maura, incredibly smart and really an example for us. What do you know a lot about the world and what do you have a good heart! Aanvi, thanks. We are grateful for meeting you, you are so cool. Milotte, we will see you today and are so excited to hear about all your adventures. And sooo many other people we met and made us smile. Efnu, thank you, you are one of the funniest people we know, and especially the humor you have with yourself is the funniest. You were a good asset to the family. And your cooking skills were also an asset. And captain Makan a.k.a Fiona. So happy that we met you at that time, you made us laugh again. But first, we are going to graduate and safe money for our next flight to wherever we want to go. Because our eyes are open now and our world is bigger than before. Even at the end of the world, there are people that we love, and we know they love us. The greatest gift we could ever wish for.

See you when we see you!


Proud, happy and satisfied

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The opening of the exhibition at Taksu Photo Gallery was a great success. The most important thing was that all our participants were there with their family. The first reactions of the students when they saw their own pictures were amazing. Some students were so shocked they didn’t say anything and didn’t know how to react. It was a very emotional moment. We saw the parents and other family members smiling to their children full of happiness and we could see that they were proud of their children. Some parents met each other for the first time, people could talk to our participants and ask questions and the participants could show their own work. They did this! And they can be proud off themselves, a feeling they maybe never experienced before. We would like to thank all the people who supported this project and visited the exhibition!




We taught this group with special needs how to work with the camera. By using this creative means we found a way together with the participants, to express themselves. The students were very proud of themselves, including the parents. Most of the parents didn’t expect this, and were very surprised. We saw they were very moved about the stories of the students because of the tears in their eyes and their big smiles.  The teachers noticed how useful creative methods are during the project. They got inspired by using creative means to get to know their own students and they are motivated to do a similar project with using paint or music. The mother of Ayu Tini noticed that her child had developed more self-confidence through this Photo Voice project. When the participants saw their pictures for the first time at the exhibition, their first reaction was complete silence. And after that the biggest smile we have ever seen! We are so happy that the parents and teachers could see that their students are able to make these beautiful pictures! They just needed a chance ,a space, a possibility.

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After the exhibition we gave all the participants one picture they have made. When they got the picture they showed the picture to all the children and teachers from Sjaki-Tari-Us and they got a big applause.

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For us is this Bali adventure over now but we hope that this project will continue. We left the camera’s at Sjaki-Tari-Us so the teachers can give the camera’s to their students and continue this project. Its not important what kind of pictures come out of this experiment. It is already meaningful that a student can work with a camera and get the chance to experiment something new and express themselves.

We hope this project has influence in the life of our students for ever. And we are very curious what will happen next.


More pictures below



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Ayu Tini is 15 years old and lives in Lodtunduh. When she was born, she got poisoned from the water and had to stay in the hospital for 25 days. She lived in an incubator for eleven days until she was strong again. After she came home, she came down with a fever every week and was very weak for a few years. She attended kindergarten when she was five years old, but it was too difficult for her to follow the classes, so she stayed home after one year. She started going to Sjaki-Tari-Us when she was nine years old. Ayu Tini started working at the Warung at Sjaki-Tari-Us. She can clean and cook, and her family is very proud of her. She can earn money and take care of herself. Ayu Tini likes to take care of her classmates and always helps the teachers when she is not busy at the warung. She is the big sister of the group and loves her classmates, and everybody likes her. She regularly walks arm-in-arm with people and likes to cuddle. In general, Ayu Tini is shy and not very confident about herself. During the Photo Voice project, her parents noticed that she was becoming more confident because she was using the camera. Ayu Tini is a modest person but once you get to know her, she will be your best friend. Ayu Tini has a special view of the world and she loves bright colors. She is sometimes quiet but she is always watching out and making sure that everybody feels comfortable.


This is the favorite picture of Ayu Tini. She loves her grandfather and takes care of him.


Ayu Tini likes to participate during the ceremonies because the Balinese tradition is very important for her.




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Putu is 25 years old and was born in Lodtunduh. When Putu was born, he had a low IQ. He went to kindergarten but couldn’t follow along with the classes, and his behaviour was not very good. From the moment he stayed home until he started going to Sjaki-Tari-Us in 2008, he was frequently together with Ayu Widia. He always comes to school together with Ayu Widia. They are often together, they laugh a lot and they take care of each other. Putu is the silent observer of the class, but he gets a twinkle in his eye when he likes something so you can easily tell when he is happy. Putu likes to watch TV, hang out with his dog, and fly kites. He makes the kites himself first and then goes out to fly them. Putu loves to attend ceremonies and has many outfits to wear. Balinese culture is very important to him and he likes to help his family. He is very sweet and polite, and always says hello, goodbye and thank you. His brother wanted to use the camera for example, but Putu said no because it was not his camera and he needs to be careful with it. He is quiet and a little bit shy, but he has an interesting way of looking at the world. He really enjoyed the Photo Voice project and taking pictures. He was very shy at the beginning and only took a few pictures, but after a while he took more and more pictures and he had a lot of fun during the process. He really likes to take pictures of nature and the environment.


This is the favorite picture of Putu because he likes butterfly’s. He likes the colours and shapes. Putu loves nature in general.


These pictures show how he walks from his house to school and what he sees on the way.

Read the story of Ayu Tini tomorrow!




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Ayu Widia is twenty-two years old and was born in Lodtunduh. She was a healthy baby when she was born. After seven months, she came down with a high fever and her parents brought her to the hospital. She recovered, but at the age of two, the fever came back. The doctors found that one of her nerves was stuck between her spine such that she needed an operation. The operation came with the risk of mental or physical problems, but her parents wanted to save her life no matter what. Ayu Widia never went to school, but her parents taught her the things she needed to learn at home. She was often upset and angry, but after she began going to Sjaki-Tari-Us almost ten years ago, she has become more calm and happy. Ayu Widia acts as mother of the group at Sjaki-Tari-Us. She ensures that the students work together, corrects her classmates when they do something wrong, and she always helps others. Furthermore, Ayu Widia wants to be close with others. In the morning she always cuddles with the moms and teachers at Sjaki-Tari-Us. Every morning she picks up Putu before she goes to school and she makes Putu feel comfortable. Ayu Widia likes to make herself up, watch TV and sew. Later, Ayu Widia would like to become a model. She often makes herself up with make-up and practices walking as if she is walking the catwalk. She would like to wear heels. We noticed that Ayu Widia has her own style with making pictures. She uses different techniques every time depending on what the environment looks like. If she really likes something, she is not afraid to get very close to take the picture. She was really happy to experiment with the camera!


This is Ayu Widia her favorite picture because she likes to play with the girl from next door. They are like sisters to each other.


Ayu Widia is very happy with her parents. They specially changed their outfit for the picture.


Ayu Widia likes to make portrait pictures.

Read the story of Putu tomorrow!



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Oki is thirty-one years old and was born in Denpasar. His parents saw that he had Down Syndrome when he was born and the doctor said that that would never change. His parents always took him to the beach, they went to therapy every week and they gave him the best food to support him. Oki always wanted to go to school. When he was young, he would run around Ubud with a notebook and pen in his hand. He started coming to Sjaki-Tari-Us when he was twenty-two years old and is very passionate about learning things and going to school. However, sometimes he does not come to school for a few days because he wants to stay and play with his best friend, Cuplis. Cuplis and Oki are always together. Cuplis does not attend Sjaki-Tari-Us anymore and Oki really misses Cuplis. Oki’s parents are worried because Oki wants to go to Cuplis’ house so often that he forgets that he has to go to Sjaki–Tari–Us. During the project, Oki took lots of pictures at Cuplis’ house because he wants to show the world how Cuplis lives. Oki feels sorry for Cuplis because he only lives with his mother and they don’t have many things. Oki likes to sleep together in bed with Cuplis and that is why he likes this picture. At school Oki often takes the lead in the group and is the one who always tries everything first. Oki cares for the group and it would be difficult not to become friends with him. He likes to draw letters and numbers in 3-D all the time and his room is full of drawings. He is not shy and would like to be in the spotlight. With his cheerfulness and personality, he is an asset to Sjaki-Tari-Us!


This is Oki his favorite picture because he likes grandmothers. This is the mother of his best friend Cuplis but they are so close that it feels like his second mother.


This is the room of Cuplis. Oki likes to visit Cuplis to drink tea and have sleepovers.

Read the story of Ayu Widia tomorrow!



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Sasta is eleven years old and was born in the hospital in Klungkung. His mother started bleeding when she was four months pregnant, and the doctor said that Sasta had a five percent chance of surviving. When Sasta was born, everything appeared normal, but he developed slowly. It was difficult for him to learn and to walk, and he didn’t start talking until he was six years old. Sasta first went to primary school, but he had difficulty concentrating and the classes were too hard for him. It was difficult for him to get up in the morning and he didn’t have a lot of energy. Now that he goes to school at Sjaki-Tari-Us, he wakes up every morning, takes a shower, goes to the toilet and puts on his clothes, and makes himself ready for the driver to pick him up. Sasta is a special boy who likes to be surrounded by people. He regularly sits close the teacher during classes or surrounds himself with friends. In his free time, he cycles through the village with his bicycle, goes to the beach to fly kites, and takes care of the animals at home. Sasta’s best friend is Romi and at school they are always together. If something is wrong with his classmates, he tries to put the person at ease. Sasta is a boy who likes to be surrounded by nature and goes on adventures. He loves to take care of animals and feed them. He is an explorer and always curious when people are making or building something. He likes to watch how people do it so that he can learn from it.


This is the favorite picture of Sasta, because he likes to feed the chicken at home. This is the first thing he is doing when he arrive home from school.


Sasta likes to play with his friends in the village and cycle around on his bicycle.


When Sasta came home after taking this picture he showed the picture to his father because he was so surprised that a person sat on the tree trunk like a monkey.

Read the story of Oki tomorrow!