Ins & Outs of Volunteering in Bali with IVHQ
Is volunteering abroad and helping educational efforts a dream of yours? It was for a previous travellers who turned that dream into a reality by becoming a volunteer teacher in Bali, Ubud with the International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ).
In this article she shares her life changing experience, top tips and everything you need to know if you are thinking about going to volunteer in Bali with IVHQ.
What to Think About Before Applying/Departing
There are lots of different local and international volunteering organisations offering projects in Bali but, of course, you'll want to choose one that appeals to you. From helping sea turtles, to building houses or working in schools, there's a lot of choice. I made the decision to volunteer at a school with IVHQ who placed me on a program with their local partner, Green Lion, operating in Bali.
When applying, you'll need to work out a budget for how much you'll need for flights, sightseeing and the program fee. You might want to start saving or set up a fundraising page, to get the ball rolling.
Then before departing, do your research – from what vaccinations are required, what type of visa is required, what appropriate clothes you should pack, to the Balinese culture that you ought to respect during your time out there. This preparation is 100% needed and will make the whole process easier.
Have a read of my experience below, to see if this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity appeals to you.
Arrival & Orientation Week
Orientation week is first up. This is your chance to meet, and bond with, people from all over the world who are also starting their volunteer program – from the teaching program, to the construction program and turtle conservation – at the same time as yourself.
The five days are jam-packed with fun-filled, creative and educational activities, covering everything you need to know about your stay.
Day 1 - An introduction to the programme, the staff, the customs, the rules, the expectations, safety, a walk through Ubud, a welcome dinner, and a Balinese dance show.
Day 2 - Start language lesson and go on a local walk through the rice paddies. Day three involves a continuation of day two’s language lesson and a batik painting class.
Day 4 - Take an Indonesian cooking class, a flower making class (as flower offerings are a daily ritual in Bali), and a discussion about your teaching project.
Day 5 - The last day of orientation week – involves a temple visit and an introduction to your teaching project (where you’ll find out what class you’re going to be teaching, what time you’ll be teaching at, and who you’ll be teaching with). Who knew so much could be packed into five days?
Starting the Program
After orientation week, your teaching program begins!
Each weekday, after about an hour of morning lesson preparation at the teaching hut with your teaching partner, and lunch at 12pm at the canteen with everyone, you’ll be taken to your school via minibus with the friendliest of drivers. The school kids’ faces are beaming as soon as you arrive, and they’ll no doubt drag you to the classroom to start teaching – that’s how eager they are to learn.
Depending on what class grade you’re assigned to, you’ll be teaching the kids about animals, colours, numbers, occupations, basic and advanced conversations through worksheets, games, and whiteboard interactivity. You’ll notice, as soon as you step in the classroom, their eagerness to learn is also fuelled by earning stickers, so don’t forget to pack some in your suitcase or pick some up from Bintang supermarket.
You might want to pick up some gifts, such as notepads/colouring books/pens, for them, too. Also, don’t forget to have a few playground games up your sleeve for their lunch break. After a few fun-filled, rewarding hours of teaching, you’ll head back to Ubud just in time for dinner at the canteen.
Make sure you’re dressed respectfully, by covering your shoulders and knees, otherwise you won’t be allowed to teach. Also, if there's a Balinese celebration going on, you’ll usually have the day off teaching.
Regarding accommodation whilst volunteering, you’ll be put in volunteer houses with three-seven other volunteers but if you’re not into sharing, you can request to have your own room for an extra fee.
Don’t worry, they all have bathrooms and wifi, and you’ll be on the doorstep of all the other volunteer houses, the canteen, the Green Lion office, a spa, a pool, a couple of small shops to get snacks and water at, a couple of cute cafés, a couple of weekend activity stalls, a small restaurant just opposite the canteen, and Ubud (a 20 minute walk or short taxi ride away).
I'd recommend bringing a mosquito net to hang up above your bed to avoid being bitten.
Food & Drink
Regarding eating during your stay, the canteen provides tasty breakfasts, lunches and dinners but there’s no rule about having to eat at it – for some, some of the food is an acquired taste, or having rice most days gets a bit much, so they tend to have some of their meals at the restaurants/cafés down the road or somewhere in Ubud where home comfort foods, such as pizza and pasta dishes, are served.
However, make sure to spend a bit of time at the canteen, out of respect. In between, you’ll probably want drinks and snacks, such as smoothies, water, hot drinks, chocolate, sweets, brownies, acai bowls, pastries etc, which you can pick up at the supermarkets/stalls/cute cafés nearby.
Some travellers get affected by Bali belly (an upset stomach/diarrhoea) which is common with a change in diet. Be sure to buy medication before departing in case you get affected. I'd also recommend drinking from the water cooler outside your volunteer house – the tap water isn’t safe to drink in Bali.
Before you know it, the weekend will come around – your well-deserved break from teaching. You’ll have the freedom to visit anywhere in Bali according to your budget.
Typically, volunteers like to visit the Gili islands (make sure you pick the right one, depending on whether you’re a party lover or into the chilled vibe), Padang Padang beach (the perfect beach for surfers), Uluwatu beach (another top spot for surfers), Seminyak beach (one of Bali’s more stylish beaches), Dreamland beach (the clue’s in the name – it’s beautiful), Mount Batur’s sunrise hike (a beautiful early morning sunrise hike, which you can actually do any day as you’ll be back in time for teaching), or just stay at their accommodation in Ubud and go clubbing and shopping.
You’ll be able to book Bali tours, activities, accommodation, and taxis for your weekend getaways really easily – just ask any member of the Green Lion office or visit one of the tourist stalls along the streets. Bali is pretty cheap so, no matter what your budget is, you’ll always find something to do in your spare time.
What Are You Waiting For?
If you’ve got an appetite for experiencing a vibrant culture, putting the biggest smiles on young faces, and meeting potential friends for life, this is the trip for you! I loved the experience of volunteering in Bali and hopefully you will too. Now, go and start researching volunteering programs in Indonesia or start your application with IVHQ today!