December 25, 2015
International Humanity Foundation (IHF) is a non-religious, non-political, and non-profit organization whose missions are to educate the poor and to educate the world about the poor.
IHF believes in a “pass it on” philosophy, where education is free and available for all who seek it. Those who received free education pass it on by helping others who are not as lucky. IHF centers provide an informal place for children from lower economic classes to work with volunteers. This teaches the kids to feel at ease with people from different backgrounds since a young age.
I was a volunteer at the IHF center in Medan, North Sumatra. Medan may not be listed as a highlight on most travel guides, but it is filled with truly Indonesian character. As in most places off the tourist trail, people in Medan warmly welcome foreigners. The locals were curious about me, asked me to take countless photos, and rewarded with smiles my broken Indonesian. Whenever they saw me riding a motorbike through the potholes they waved and yelled “hello!”. It was a non-stop cultural exchange.
At IHF Medan, I did administrative work, prepared learning/game activities for the students, and helped with English classes. The center focuses on educating children through two programs. The Education Program allows to sponsor a child’s public education cost for only $10.00 per month, including tuition fees, books, uniforms, and graduation ceremonies. The Class Sponsorship Program consists of English, Math, and Computer classes taught by volunteers to complement or replace public education when not available. These classes have a cost of just $2.00 per month per student, but they have a great long-term impact.
If you are interested in sharing your time, knowledge, and skills, IHF needs volunteers all year round. Otherwise, if you just would like to make a small donation to support one of their children or classes, please click here. The kids are very enthusiastic to attend the classes, so no matter how long or how much, it would certainly be time or money well spent!
Ángeles de Medellín
June 1, 2014
Situated in a narrow valley, Medellín is the capital of Colombia’s mountainous Antioquia province. Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate weather, Medellín was however once better known as the most violent city in the world. As a result of the years-long conflict between the government and the drug cartels, people were displaced to shanty towns up in the mountains on the outskirts of the city.
For a couple of months I had the chance to work in one of these barrios alongside Marcos, who runs a foundation named Angeles de Medellín. Marcos and his volunteers help the poor and displaced families, teach English to adults, and give kids the opportunity to use computers and play games in a safe environment.
Working at Angeles de Medellín showed me the real Latin America, from shocking stories and social problems to the overwhelming passion and friendliness of Colombians. It showed me people really eager to learn and grateful to their teachers. It showed me kids of all colors skipping the rope together in harmony.
Marcos is always looking for volunteers. All he asks for is a very small donation, and you can join his community center for one day, one week, or whatever works best for you. Contact him if you wish to leave an impact on kids who would otherwise probably never meet a foreigner. You will certainly have fun and experience South America at its most authentic.
Casa della Gioia
February 1, 2014
I always wanted to go to Africa.
Shortly after submitting my Ph.D. dissertation, I finally buckled my good old backpack and moved to the northern coast of Tanzania, where I lived for two months in Casa della Gioia, an orphanage for HIV-positive kids. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I left a piece of my heart there.
At Casa della Gioia, I was helping in the fields, in the kitchen, and at home. I was teaching some English and computers. I certainly received more than I gave. Tanzanians never failed to smile, to open the ir hearts, and to welcome the mzungu (Swahili word for “white man”). Extremely poor people offered me all they had. Little orphans with HIV and malaria showed me happiness, joy of life, and love you can hardly find anywhere else.
During my time in Tanzania, I started several projects with the orphanage. One of them is the Water Project. Since the orphanage has no funding sources, we are currently looking for donations to build a well, which will provide water for irrigation, and will allow them to grow crops and fruit trees. In the long term, this will help greatly reduce the costs of the orphanage, since they won’t have to buy fruit and vegetables from the market.