the cultural exploration…

As excited as I was to go to Bali for the conference on community development, I also really wanted to get to explore some of the Hindu heritage of Indonesia that I hadn’t gotten to experience yet in the year I’ve been here. My friend Tirza suggested that we rent a car and explore Bali on Monday during the day before the 5pm kick off dinner…so that’s exactly what we did.

We started off by going to a traditional Balinese dance. It’s more like a ballet than other traditional dances that I’ve seen, because it’s not just about the movement or costumes, it’s about the complex storyline that gives you insight into the culture. Though I must say, the costumes were pretty cool…


Our next stop was to one of the largest Hindu temples on the island. 


While we were there we were able to see some of the ladies preparing for a ceremony later that evening…


On our way to the volcano view for lunch, we passed this tea plantation and had to stop to take a picture…


Right around lunch time it started to pour rain, so we stopped at a little restaurant with a gorgeous view. I miss being around mountains so much that getting to see this view was like medicine to my soul…


After this, Tirza and I made our way to the second largest Hindu temple in Indonesia.


While we were walking through we were able to crash part of a Hindu wedding. I got to see both the end of the ceremony and part of the wedding procession…IMG_4148

But first, let’s watch her take a selfie…


We ended our day of adventure by stopping by a coffee plantation, which has been on my bucket list of things to do in Indonesia since I first decided to move here. 


At the end of the tour we got to do a free coffee tasting, which was awesome!

IMG_4192 All in all, it was an awesome day…especially since it had been a while since I was able to do some cultural exploration.

my first health seminar…

Two Saturdays ago I was able to plan and facilitate my first community health seminar!

For the past six or seven months I have really been feeling that health education area of health that Partners for Compassion should focus on, as Jakarta’s health services have been getting better. Plus health education is very relational and long-term, which suits our model of operation really well.

A couple months ago I met with our community partners in North Jakarta and asked them if they would want us to offer health seminars and they said they would love it! I was able to find an awesome doctor from my church who volunteered her time to teach a class on first aid in the community. We spent time planning and preparing  and coordinating with the various parties involved and set the date for Saturday, November 21.


While preparing the logistics for the event, I learned an interesting cultural fact. Apparently when women attend this kind of event it’s expected that they get “simbako” which is a package of rice, oil, sugar, and instant noodles that they can take home with them to their families. Though the concept was a little weird to meet at first, I jumped on board and went to the store to buy all the stuff. While I was loading up my card with 35 packages of 1KG of sugar one of the ladies passing me asked if I was opening a little store. I laughed and told her no, that I was making simbako packages for one of our communities. It kind of felt like I was opening a store, though, as I had never in my life bought so much food at one time before.


At home my roommate, Korry and I put on a Christmas movie and packed everything up into 35 simbako bags.


On the day of the seminar I was so nervous. What if something went wrong? What if the doctor had a terrible time and never wanted to help again? What if the moms hated it and our relationship doing health education was closed forever? What if our partner thought it was a disaster? Though the thoughts were all slightly irrational, I was a bit apprehensive. But the event could not have possibly gone any better.

I was able to open the seminar with my first speech fully given in Indonesian! Though it was just a simple greeting and thank you to the various people who helped, it still felt like such an accomplishment to get to say it all in Indonesian without a translator.


Doctor Elva did a fantastic job teaching. She was funny and interactive and all the moms were on the edges of their seats listening to what she was saying and fully participating in her interactive portions. At one point one of the moms had to get up and blocked the projected and she was immediately told to sit down by the other ladies because they all couldn’t see around her. Even after the seminar they spent about 15 extra minutes asking various follow up questions.


I could not have asked for it to go any better. I am so excited about continuing to expand our health education program!


lessons learned on holistic community development…

This past week I was able to go to Bali and go through Transformational Community Development (TCD) training. The premise of this model is that health is not just curing disease, it’s about the physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental well being of an individual and a community. The conference was about how we can incorporate that model into how we work with communities.

Though I learned a ton of different things, I thought I would share just two things that I took away that I thought you might be interested in:

1. Health is more than the curing of disease.

The foundation of TCD is that health is not just curing disease, it’s about a holistic approach to health, where physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health are all components. In the TCD course they stated that their model is not just something they came up with on their own. The WHO defines health similarly, they say health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

As I was sitting listening to this foundational teaching in the conference, I remembered my Health 101 class at JMU my freshman year. That is where I first learned about the four dimensions of health—which were the same as the foundation of the TCD course! I remembered that for our big project we had to go to two events from each dimension of health throughout the course of the semester so we would understand the broader concept of health. I guess it worked because five years later I still remember them…and they fit perfectly into what I was learning about at the Transformational Community Development training.

So in a nutshell the theory is that the measure of success of the TCD program is not just a decrease in disease occurrences in a particular community (thought that is definitely a major component). This makes sense because if a community is physically health (less disease) but there are problems between families, problems with the environment, people have spiritual problems, or even emotional problems with themselves—are the communities really considered healthy? According to the TCD model they are not. That is why it is important to find the root causes of the visible problems and address those—because if the roots are fixed then everything else will work itself out. TCD is all about taking a holistic approach to community development, working with all four dimensions of health to have truly healthy communities.

2. Communities should define their problems and solutions to those problems – our role as outsiders is facilitation

When you first hear that communities should define their own problems and come up with their own solutions you may have a  “duh, that makes perfect sense” moment. While it does make complete sense theoretically, sometimes as an outsider it’s harder to live out in practice. What do you do when you see severe health issues in the community where you are working that they aren’t working towards solving—either because they don’t see them as problems or they don’t know how to fix them? Do you go in and fix them? Or do you just wait until they are able (or willing) to address the issue on their own? But what if that takes too long and there are people in the community dying from preventable causes? 

The principles of TCD is to actively empower communities to recognize and define their own problems and then facilitate them towards coming up with their own solutions to those problems, rather than just giving them a list of things they need to fix—or worse just fix it for them without them even recognizing that it is an important problem that they face. 

Our job as outsiders to that community is to help them through the process of THEM self-defining the biggest issues they think their community faces and then facilitate them through the process of coming up with their own solutions to the problem. I think it a good middle ground between the two extremes of solving the problem for them or doing nothing until they address the issue on their own. 

So in practice I think it would theoretically look something like this:

We would go to the community where we are working (and already have some relationships with the people there) and meet with representatives of the community and sit down together in a circle for our initial TCD meeting. We would first go through an appreciative inquiry of what they feel are good things about their community. This is essential because we don’t want them to be negative about their community, or perceive that we feel negatively about their community. They live there so there must be some positive things about that community, which you should help them through the process of verbalizing. The foundation of TCD should be build on what is already good in the community rather than starting from a point of despair.

After the appreciative inquiry you have each person at the meeting map out their dream of what they would like their community to look like in 5 years. From there you ask them to pick 3 of the biggest issues their community faces that keeps them from their 5-year dream for the community. A fun way they taught us to do this is to have each person find actual objects that illustrate the problems and then everyone lines up the objects in the middle of the circle. Once you group objects that represent the same thing, you give people 5 stones and they vote for the problems they think are most important (noting that you can give one problem more than one stone). Then you go through each of the problems, from the ones that got the most votes to those that got the least. After evaluating the voting, you discuss the three issues that received the most votes to make sure the voting represented their reality of those issues being the most important to the community as a whole. From there you can introduce TDC and what the process would look like for them and then help them develop a model of how to address the three biggest issues they just identified.

By using this method, the community is more invested in the long-term success of the plan—because they recognize that the problem is important and is something they want to commit to working towards. 

Through every step of the process it is important that we don’t tell them what to do, but rather pose questions that gets them thinking about how they should address their needs. I like this because it’s all about FACILITATION, it’s about asking questions and creatively problem solving. It doesn’t mean we can’t be involved in the community, it means that we have an advisory role rather than just coming in and fixing things, making blunders, and then our solutions not really even working anyway. 

I think that the TCD model really fits well with PFC’s style of community development. We strive to equip and provide resources to people who live in the communities and not go in as outsiders and try to run everything. It was so encouraging to learn more about how to do this better and more effectively.

It was such a great week. I learned so much and met some incredible people. I have come back to Jakarta with more passion and enthusiasm to continue working on developing ways to better work with communities.