The most annoying thing about traveling on a HWCI Aid Trip to Indonesia was the reaction of friends and colleagues when I told them where I was going: “Oh, you’re going to Bali?” people would enthuse “Enjoy your nice holiday!” Despite my protestations that I was going there to work, many people found the idea that I was travelling to Bali to do anything other than laze on a beach and drink Bintang completely unbelievable.
For the impoverished people of Bali, trapped on an island where the gap between the rich and the poor is the largest in the whole of Indonesia, this stereotype does nothing to make their lives any easier.
In Denpasar, the unequal distribution of wealth is something almost impossible to miss. Driving down a wide, meticulously maintained street, past row after row of embassies, banks and mansions, we would suddenly come across an entire community of shanties nestled between housing developments and government property. In Kuta, the very centre of wealth and opportunity, we found a community making its living sorting garbage, where children ran barefoot among the refuse. When we tested the drinking water of one family in another slum, the deadly bacteria grew in numbers too numerous to not easy. At the end the one thing that we all agreed on was that we need to schedule regular rest days! Some of us got less than four hours off the entire time we were there! One of the most exciting aspects, perhaps not from a donor perspective, but certainly from a poverty alleviation perspective, were the focus group questionnaires we count.
One of the things I love about HWCI Aid Trips is that I’m not regulated to the position of tourist or bystander, watching while the experts test the water, identify the problems, conduct their research, distribute the water filters etc. Every member of our team received LifeStraw training, and scientific training where it was necessary, so we were completely involved. It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak the language – the gratitude evident on the faces of people transcended the language barrier.
But don’t get me wrong – this trip was not easy. At the end the one thing that we all agreed on was that we need to schedule regular rest days! Some of us got less than four hours off the entire time we were there!
One of the most exciting aspects, perhaps not from a donor perspective, but certainly from a poverty alleviation perspective, were the focus group questionnaires we collected from voluntary participants in the slums where we distributed the LifeStraws. We collected over 100 surveys. All the respondents were remarkably honest in their responses, and their answers and insights into their own impoverished situation will form the basis of HWCI’s future development work in these areas.
All in all, three weeks did not seem long enough to achieve everything we wanted to achieve, and the team unanimously agreed that two trips was a must for next year.