Ihf in thailand: healthy mind, healthy body, better world!

At IHF our mission is to provide less privileged children the opportunity to attain a good education, as well as give them a safe and healthy living and learning environment.

In order to successfully achieve our mission at the IHF Chiang Rai Children’s Home Center, we find it is important to start off with the well-being of our local staff members and international volunteers. Thus, we are focused on addressing three tightly integrated objectives: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body and Better World by raising awareness and practicing the following key habits:

  1. Daily Physical Activity: Exercise at least 20 minutes most days of the week, if not daily.
  2.    Intellectual Curiosity: Spend some time in focused thought, exploring new ideas every day.
  3.    Foster Creativity: Challenge your mind to connect unrelated ideas in new and useful ways.
  4.    Human Unity: Create and maintain close-knit human bonds.
  5.    Spiritual Connectedness: Identify a source of inspiration.
  6.    Energy Balance: Balance calories in and calories out.
  7.    Voluntary Simplicity: Embrace the liberty that comes with wanting and needing less.

In addition to basic needs such as food and shelter, every child needs much more—safety, good health, love, support, friendship, dignity, respect, and the need to realize full personal potential.

At the IHF Chiang Rai Children’s Home Center, we not only provide the children with their basic needs, we strive to raise healthy, responsible, disciplined and creative children.

Our desire is for the children to grow up surrounded by much love and support while getting a good education and proper guidance for constructive living and a brighter future. Those are the essential elements that can help each child attain their full personal potential and become everything he or she is able to become.

While the children are at the Thailand Center, outside of school, we try to balance their time between studies (school work and learning English) and other activities:

  • Doing Chores: This helps the children learn how to be responsible and productive.
  • Playing on the Playground: This gives the children sufficient exercise while they have fun.
  • Board Games: These games help to sharpen the children’s minds and enhance their intelligence capacities.
  • Art/Drawing: This activity helps enhance the children’s creative abilities.

As the children at the Thailand Center are quite young—their ages range from 6-12—we have to tailor our teaching techniques to meet their levels of comprehension to be most effective. However, we try to apply the basic principles of having a healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy life to our teachings by being good role models as well. As a result, we see the children exude vibrant energy that emanates so much love, happiness, and confidence.

We believe that we are raising the next generation of great people and I am truly honored to be part of this mission and to be able to contribute by sharing my experiences and skills while exploring all possibilities to make a positive impact to the children’s lives during my time at IHF.

Come join us!

IHF in Bali: Encouraging the Creative Mind

Back in February, on the last day of the month, our special activity was drawing based.

We showed the children at our IHF Bali Education Center a few examples of how to use their hands to build an animal body, and how to add additional body parts, including: legs, eyes and/or beaks in order to complete the whole animal.

The children quickly chose the animal they wanted to create and the color they wanted to use. Even though most of them chose to draw a chicken, no two drawings were the same.

With excitement the students sunk their hands in paint and smashed it onto the paper. Their thumbs turned into the necks and heads of the bird, while their other fingers simulated the feathers. Then, the children drew eyes, beak, legs and everything needed to make the palm of their hands turn into a chicken.

Each of the students decorated their animal in a different way, and we got beautiful drawings with colorful feathers. Many of the children also drew landscapes as they wanted to, resulting in beautiful flamingos standing in a lake and chickens on a cloudy day or in a bright green field. The kids really enjoyed drawing freely!

The children we serve at our Bali Center also draw in between classes, to decorate their sponsor letters, or to give them as a present to our volunteers.

In addition to the academic education we offer the kids here, is our important commitment to encourage the children to develop their creative minds. Creativity is key for their development, as the imagination is the first step in solving problems and social evolution.

Just as the children imagine what their drawings will look like and design them, so they will also have to visualise the solution for their daily problems. And maybe, if their creativity is developed enough, they will find a solution that no one has thought about before, and that is where we start to evolve as a society.

Creativity is not only the ability to make up new songs, create a piece of art every day, or even build marvelous architectural pieces. A creative person will also constantly seek solutions to the new problems that arise every day. Creative people work with something they already have and transform it in order to create something completely new.

There are different types of intelligences, and in the school the tend to only develop the logical-mathematical one. If a child doesn’t have a logical-mathematical intelligence, the child, or others around that child, may automatically assume he or she is not intelligent. It is important that we encourage personal development through creative projects so that children can discover the other types of intelligences and see which one(s) they are good at. Each child has something great inside of them, and as a global family we need to help them in the process of search and discovery.

To the American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, creative people are like happy and secure children, and we share in that belief. If people know that they can face any problem they encounter, they will be more self-confident.

These days, with all the emerging technologies, kids and adults are stuck to screens, and are less likely to express their feelings to each other or display their creativity. Doing these kinds of creative exercises help children express themselves in a different way. It could lead to finding a passion, one worth fighting for. The children could see the world from another perspective. All of this is really important for their development and that is why we keep organising these kinds of activities.



IHF in Kenya: “Nurturing all rounded Leaders”

At IHF our mission is centered on providing an education to the children we serve. However, we understand that the needs of a child go beyond just formal education.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, apart from basic needs such as food and shelter, every child needs much more—safety, good health, freedom, love and belonging, friendship, dignity, respect, and the need to realize full personal potential.

That said, at the IHF Nakuru Children’s Home Center, we not only provide the children with their basic needs, we are doing our best to raise healthy, responsible and creative children.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” so we try to make free time as interesting and creative as possible. This month, we played outdoor singing games together as well as indoor games such as trivia nights, especially when the children were home from school for their mid-term break. The singing games involved holding hands in circles out in the field and chanting interesting songs that the children came up with. Trivia nights have become a favorite of the children too. They get to answer trivia questions in groups and compete among themselves.

Apart from all the happiness the children derive from the games, these activities help to improve their physical and mental health. These moments of fun and play are our favorite times with the children as volunteers; they give us a wonderful chance to form friendships and bonds with the children. Books are kept aside as we laugh, play and get creative together!

In addition to playing together, we have also been farming together! One would think farming is tedious, boring and something no one would ever choose to do. But some of our most enjoyable and interesting moments at the Nakuru center have taken place on our Peace farm.

On Saturday mornings, all the children, several volunteers from different countries and the center staff gather at the peace farm to work together and have some fun while doing it. We listen to the children tell us tales from their village in Pokot as we work away. Before we know it we’ve done a lot of work in just a few hours. Here at the farm, the  children learn the importance of togetherness and hard work, not to mention the immense satisfaction that comes from growing what you eat.

Our desire is for the children to grow up surrounded by much love and support, to have a good education, and to have all their needs met. In fact, we would want them to be the rare 2% of people who attain self actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy—a level where one attains full personal potential and becomes everything one is possibly able to become.

We believe we are raising the next generation of great people and I am proud to contribute to this by teaching them a thing or two during my time at IHF.

The Importance of Empathy

The definition of “empathy” is the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives. It is simply “putting yourself in another’s shoes” or “seeing through another’s eyes.” Empathy is a feeling that cannot be outsourced.

In the words of American Educator Maya Soetoro, “We need to teach our children empathy, care, love, communication and social responsibility in preparation for their adulthood.” Empathy is a tool that can be used for bringing people with differences into a close community.

We need to first fully understand and accept ourselves as we are. This will in turn make us transparent in expressing our feelings. Only then will we be able to truly be compassionate, empathetic and loving to our fellow human beings.

In our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, the rich are becoming richer and the poor –poorer. The divide is only growing wider.

There are people who do not have the opportunities to exercise their basic human rights, many of them do not even know what their basic rights are. Some of them do not even have access to basic human needs –  food, shelter, quality education, etc. They are the oppressed, and entire regions of society are left vulnerable.

Whom will they turn to? Who can help them? Only those who empathize with them and have the courage to advocate for them.

These people need some willing saviors, like Gandhi, Mandela, and Lincoln to stand up and advocate for them. Imagine what those situations would have been if those heros were not there. The oppressed in their time would likely still be waiting for someone to come along and raise a voice for them.

And why can’t one of the children we serve be the one to stand up? All children should be groomed at a very young age to be true to their feelings. They should be taught to be transparent and honest. The onus of this falls on each of us. We must take up the responsibility to teach them to understand themselves and the needs of others as well as teach them to speak up whenever necessary.

Advocating for another’s cause is the primary exercise in Empathy. Ignorance and prejudice make advocacy impossible. We should set an example that makes children understand that if they are being self-centered and judgmental then they can’t empathize. They should learn from us to find the echoes of other people in them.

The goal is to be assertive first and then help themselves and others become better people.

I would like to conclude with the following quote by James Morcan, a New Zealand writer:

“No genuine change in society ever occurs without the mass public getting behind a cause. The good guys in government are counting on enough of us common people waking up and demanding more rights and greater freedoms.”

IHF in Kenya: Compassion – Give it. Receive it.

By Diewertje “Dee” Kersten, Volunteer from The Netherlands, IHF Nakuru Children’s Home Center.

 When I started volunteering  a month ago in Nakuru at IHF’s Children’s Home, I wasn’t sure what to expect, what I would see or who I would meet. In my short time, I already know more, and I feel compelled to share my experience so far with others.

 Coming from The Netherlands, without experience traveling to, or visiting, a country on the African continent, becoming a volunteer in Kenya was exciting for me! Finally, I got to do what I had dreamed about for so long, going to the African continent and volunteering with an NGO (non-governmental organisation).

Maybe you’re wondering why I had dreamed about it for so long. I have always felt strongly about helping others. I also  saw how good our social system is set up in The Netherlands and believed it would be more worthwhile to help those living in countries where there is no such social system. Also, being raised as the last of four children, I also know what it means to share things, to help and receive help, and to do things with others. My parents have given my siblings and I the best example they could give in caring for others. I am grateful for this and I decided to use my ability and voice to help others and to share the experience with many.

 While preparing for my trip, I heard different stories about Kenya some positive and others challenging. So far it has been both for me too! Let me explain why: Kenya is a country that sometimes seem well developed. There is running water, toilets, wifi and data connections, electricity, a school system, many people seem to work and earn money. However, These facilities and all the working Kenyans are just one part of Kenya. There are still rural areas and many tribes in Kenya have remained intact.

 Many of the children here in the Nakuru Children’s Home, come from the East Pokot area and have a great opportunity to build a better future. I get to be a part of that and share my culture and knowledge with them, while they share theirs with me. Anyone who volunteers with IHF will notice that the children are eager to exchange cultures, it makes them happy to tell stories about their culture; for instance, how they keep cattle. They are also curious and ask questions like, “What it is like to live in The Netherlands?” It makes me happy to share this with them, and so the circle is complete. The children and I share some happiness in that way. Humor, laughter and happiness are such good ways to make working hard for an IHF Education Center or Children’s Home easier.

 This month at the Nakuru Center we have seen a few changes: new volunteers, which mean new schedules, and sometimes different ways of handling things with the children. Every person has his or her own way and that requires some adapting to from both the children and the volunteers. However, everyone is very capable and willing to do adapt to help each other out. For example, the children will tell me and other volunteers how things were done before, or even suggest ways we can do something better.

 Now that the children are used to going to school again, after their holiday break in December, they have gotten more used to the schedule of going to school, doing homework, eating dinner, and then preparing for school the next day before bed. This means everyone has a bit more time to do fun things on the weekends! For example, we had a Valentine’s party on Sunday 11th February. The room was festively decorated, and we had some music and dancing. The girls really enjoy dancing, but some of the younger boys are really good too. Kate, a short-term volunteer from Switzerland organised a game similar to “Who’ll take the chair” (musical chairs) and of course there were treats, like cookies and chocolate from the volunteers. We all had good fun.

 Before the Valentine’s party, we all worked on some improvements projects around the center. The Children’s Home now has a frame painted around the chalkboards, there’s a tree painted mural on which we will hang pictures of the children, like a family tree. We are also planning on repainting the study room. It is very exciting to see these improvements and the children being joyful about it!

On other days we may have music on and they do a dance competition. It is really lovely to see them sharing activities and stories together and it reminds me of when I was young and living with my siblings and parents.

 I am still getting to know each of the children, so during the nights after homework, and on the weekends, I play games, draw, or talk with them. This way I learn what they would like to accomplish and what is important to them. By sharing my own story of studying hard and working I hope I am able to encourage them to not give up even when things aren’t easy.

 I learn from them too! They teach me about what they do in school, or they teach me how to make a chapati, which is a flatbread that many Kenyans like and eat often.

The children sometimes have fun when I do things differently than what they are used to do. It starts a good conversation that way too. For instance, when I treated the children with some birthday cake for my birthday, I told them about how we celebrate birthdays at home and they started singing for me.

I am certain that these children will have that same compassion when they are finished with their education as I have now. I know they will find a way to use their knowledge and skills to help others find humor, laughter, happiness, and a way to share that with even more people. So that it will continue affecting others in their lives and hopefully it will encourage those people to do the same. Because everyone deserves joy and has the responsibility to both receive and spread compassion.