Bali Life’s founded by Brad & Siska Little. Brad is Australian and Siska is Indonesian. In 2005 Brad met a 9 year old boy living on the streets of Kuta, begging for money. The boy asked Brad if he could come and live with him, get away from the streets and start going back to school. At the time Siska was pregnant with their first baby and they were living in a small house.
They both felt it was unwise to take the boy in. Brad met with him again and heartbreakingly had to explain that they couldn’t help. This left Brad & Siska with a deep desire to find a way in which they could help, not just this boy, but all the street children of Bali, Indonesia. Brad & Siska returned to Australia and shared at Brad’s home Church. They desire to set up a children’s home in Bali. A visiting businessman just passing through was challenged by what was said, wrote a cheque for AU$17,000, and Bali Life was born!
A suitable property was found and the first two children, two boys aged 8 and 5, arrived in November 2006. The Bali Life family has grown steadily over the years. The home now houses 42 children from a variety of backgrounds and places in Indonesia.
The home has been developed to be as self-sustaining as possible and in 2008 we set up our own farmland and chicken coup where our goal is to provide and egg every day for each child. Our efforts and successes in this have been a great example to the local community around the home, particularly as the area we live in is very dry and arid.
We have recognized the need to provide the practical skills to the children in our care that will allow them to gain good jobs when the time comes to leave. This has led to the development of a training workshop programme where the children learn English, IT, agriculture, cooking, music, art, dance and sport.
In March of 2010 we were approached by a Balinese lady who had found a child on the streets in a bad condition. She had nursed him back to health and now needed to find a permanent place for him to stay. We were glad to give him our last bed. The more we have spent time with this boy the more we are convinced that this is the same boy that Brad met briefly in 2005, the one who inspired the birth of the children’s home. It seems almost too good to be true, but it is such a fitting way to close the first chapter of Bali Life.
Indonesia has a population of 248,645,008 (July 2012 est.) making it the 4th largest nation in the world (1) and it faces a number of challenges… “Current issues include: alleviating poverty, improving education, preventing terrorism, consolidating democracy after four decades of authoritarianism, implementing economic and financial reforms, stemming corruption, reforming the criminal justice system, holding the military and police accountable for human rights violations, addressing climate change, and controlling infectious diseases, particularly those of global and regional importance.” (2) Apart from children being genuinely orphaned, the 3 main factors that lead to children living in orphanages in Bali are summarised below:
Many children living at our orphanage, and also at others are not actually orphans at all but victims of poverty.
Parents here will often have lots of children but cannot always afford to provide for them. The average income in Indonesia is around $100 a month (3) and with rapidly increasing costs of living it is hard to survive on such a little amount. Just considering education alone:
“UNICEF estimates that more than one million children drop out of primary school every year, primarily because the cost of supplies, uniforms, and other expenses are a burden for disadvantaged families.” (4)
There is also a clear link between children being out of school as a result of a need to work – two-thirds of children who are out of school are involved in work, either paid employment or at home.
An estimated 2.7 million Indonesian children are involved in some form of child labour – roughly half of these are under the age of 13. While most working children do manage to participate in some form of schooling, time spent engaged in education is limited and impacts on their ability to reach their full potential. There is also a clear link between children being out of school as a result of a need to work – two-thirds of children who are out of school are involved in work, either paid employment or at home.
Some parents may recognise this and choose to send their children to an orphanage where they know they will at least receive food, shelter and education. This is especially the case for single parents – particularly widowed or divorced women who have no way of financially supporting themselves or their children after the death/divorcing of their husband.
In the busy tourist areas of South Bali a large scene of ‘street kids’ has developed where children are sent out by their families to beg. As there are no penalties for failing to enrol your child in school this is a viable resort for the poorest of parents. (5) The children eventually drift into a life that is less and less attached to their family and more to the people they meet on the streets.
Life on the street is full of danger and vulnerability. One of our children was found on the streets so ill he was close to death – this is a tropical country where risk of contracting a major infectious disease is high (6) and where healthcare is privatised.
If begging is unsuccessful it often leads to petty crime and, heart-breakingly, into life as sex workers where work/money is more dependable. Many of our children, who were living on the streets before they came to us, spoke openly of their desire to become prostitutes as soon as they were able. Being children, they do not fully understand the implications of what prostitution would mean; they just see it as a secure way to gain an income (a relatively good one compared to begging). Obviously, this is an appalling prospect for these children and on top of that it is worth noting that in Indonesia there are 310,000 (2009 est.) people living with HIV/AIDs – making it the 19th worst affected country in the world. (7) Orphanages offer a refuge for children who have experienced life on the street and a chance to make a better future for those who want to change.
Before they came to live with us, many of our children were victims of neglect and all other types of abuse. Indonesia adopted the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 however implementing it has been problematic…
“Numerous difficulties impede Indonesia’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the practical difficulties of coordinating policy in over 6,000 islands and the lack of resources in an economy still recovering from the Asian economic collapse in 1997. Furthermore, Indonesia reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child that traditional attitudes persist in which child abuse is seen as a family matter for which intervention is unnecessary. The U.S. State Department reported that child labor and sexual exploitation were severe problems and that “some provincial governments did not enforce [the] provisions” of the Law on Child Protection.” (8)
So although child abuse is illegal in Indonesia – doing anything about it other than removing the child completely from the reaches of the abuser by placing them into the care of an orphanage, is extremely difficult.
(1) – CIA Publication ‘The World Factbook’ ISSN 1553-813
(2) – CIA Publication ‘The World Factbook’ ISSN 1553-813
(3) – Microsoft’s Encarta (2004)
(4) – UNICEF Indonesia ‘The Children’ (Indonesia: UNICEF 2012)
(5) – UNICEF Indonesia annual report 2012 (Indonesia: UNICEF 2010 )
(6) – CIA Publication ‘The World Factbook’ ISSN 1553-813
(7) – CIA Publication ‘The World Factbook’ ISSN 1553-813
(8) – From “Representing Children – Worldwide: How Children’s Voices Are Heard In Child Protective Proceedings” (2005)