CONTRIBUTED BY KADEK ANIS
How would you react if you came across a malnourished homeless woman whilst trekking through the mountains? Would you walk on by? Or would you welcome her warmly into your own family? Anis and her family have gone above and beyond; they’ve adopted a homeless woman.
When I was younger, I wanted to show to the world that I could do it. I grew up in a little village in the North of Bali and, possibly because we lost my father when I was just four years old, we didn’t have much. I was therefore determined that when I got older, I would work hard to make my life better and to help my mom to also have a better life.
Now that I’ve built Harmony, I’m emotionally and financially strong enough to help other people who need it. I now belong to IWAPI, an organization of women business owners in Bali (and all over Indonesia) that helps local people in need.
I also keep my eyes out for people who need help in my local area, and that’s how I met Kutang. I believe that what goes around comes around. We must help others when we can.
Mysterious Woman in the Mountain
Before I built Harmony, I was running OnlYou Villas all by myself. It was financially difficult for me because I had recently lost my first husband to liver cancer (we were running OnlYou together when he was still alive) and I was left financially destitute because of his medical bills. Despite this, I still wanted to help people – even though I honestly needed a lot of help myself at the time.
It was at this point in my life when I was in the mountains one day. It was about four years ago and I came across a woman who almost made me cry when I saw her.
Kutang was impossibly thin and sickly looking. Strangely, she wasn’t afraid of me. But I was a little afraid of her. She was very hungry so I gave her what food I had with me and she ate it very quickly.
My heart ached to look at her. Her teeth were falling out, her body was stick thin, her skin was hanging off her bones, her hair was a nest of twigs and tangles, and she was dirtier and smellier than I’ve ever witnessed in a human being before.
Why was She in the Mountain?
It was difficult communicating at first. I think that maybe she had been living on her own in the mountains for a very long time; many years is my guess. After much difficulty, I eventually learned some things about her, including her name.
I still don’t know all the details because communication is still difficult, but what I understand is that she was attacked (possibly raped) by a group of men many years ago. Because of that, her family considered her ‘tainted’ (possibly cursed by bad spirits) and refused to have anything to do with her.
She was cast out of the family and left to fend for herself. A woman on her own, without a family, is a woman without any support or any opportunity in Bali. We all need other people in this world and this woman had the whole world taken away from her.
How Had She Been Surviving?
In the mountains there are little straw shelters where people keep their cows. They are simply frames made out of wood or bamboo with a little straw roof on top. She had been finding the little shelters without cows and she was sleeping there – in the open air, on the dirt where the cows would do their business, mosquitoes eating her flesh.
The temperature at night in the mountains can get quite cold so she would cover herself with banana leaves and long grass. She had no change of clothes; only what she was wearing when I met her, tattered, torn, dirty and smelly.
For food, she would collect wild grasses or wood from the mountainside. She would then carry on her head the things she had collected and go to rural farmers. She would not sell what she collected, but instead ask them for some food. They usually would give her just cooked rice in exchange, for they too had little money.
A little rice is not enough food for the body to survive! Especially because she was doing such demanding work to try and earn her food!
She Needed Rescuing
My husband’s sister, Wayan Mencri, lives in the mountains so I called her to ask if she could help. I was living in the town and always busy with my business so I couldn’t give her a place to live. At this time I was also living in the holiday villas I owned and it would not have been possible to have her live there.
My sister-in-law is a very good woman; a very loving woman. She has a golden heart. She has a husband and children so she easily could have refused to help. But she didn’t say no. Instead, she agreed to help. Because of her compassion, Kutang is now cared for.
Wayan Mencri and her husband welcomed Kutang into their home. This was about four years ago.
They couldn’t offer her a sleeping space of her own because there was no extra space available, but she now sleeps in the kitchen where they made space for her. Because the kitchen is a Balinese rural style kitchen, all of the cooking is done on an open wood fire. This is means that it’s much warmer than sleeping outside.
They make sure she has food and water for drinking and bathing, and they have really welcomed her into their family like one of their own. It’s a difficult road up the mountain to get to see them, so I only get to visit them about once every month. Each time I go, I always take things that the family will need and I give my sister-in-law money to pay for Kutang’s food.
She’s also a good help to my sister-in-law’s family as she helps out a lot around the property. It has turned out to be a helpful arrangement for both Kutang and Wayan Mencri’s family.
Why am I Sharing this Story?
Many tourists come to Bali every single day. But very few get to see the real Bali. THIS is the real Bali. This is the reality for a lot of people here.
There are many local people and local families who are living very poor lives. But tourists never get to see them – and I also almost never see them – because they live in the mountains and never really make it to places to be met. They also try to hide their poverty when going into town.
Most tourists are good people and they want to help other people – but they don’t know where to start. I’m not suggesting anyone help Kutang; we’re doing that. But I’m suggesting that, if anyone wants to help the needy people of Bali, they should try to get to know the local people when they are here. If they want to help someone who needs it, they should give the help directly to that person.
I want to warn tourists that they should not give their donation money to organizations. I’ve seen so much corruption here with organizations that are supposed to help the locals. With most, the locals never see the money. So please, if you really want to help someone in need, give your help directly to the person who needs it.
I do belong to one organization that I think is a good one. All of the money donated goes directly to the people who need it because almost everyone involved is a volunteer.
IWAPI is an organization for Women business owners in Indonesia. The head offices are in Denpasar and Jakarta, but there are many small, local branches that are operated by the people who live and have their businesses in small communities.
We women business owners each contribute some money twice per month, according to what we can each contribute. Sometimes, if business has been bad and we can’t contribute, it’s OK and then we give again the next month when business is better.
A local volunteer collects all the money contributed by the local businesses. I do this for Amed. I then find people in our community who need the help – maybe a family, maybe a school. I give the money to them or I use it to buy them what they need. Right now, I am using the money we all donate to support a local school for the poorest people in our community. Together, our IWAPI contributions give them 150 euros per month.
My Advice if you Want the Needy
If you’re in Bali and you want to help a local who needs help, you can do this most easily if you spend many days in one area. That way you’ll get to meet the locals, and the local business owners. You might want to see if a female business owner you meet belongs to IWAPI. If they do, you could help the local community by giving them money to be used through IWAPI.
Some people may still abuse your donation though so you need to be sure that you trust the person you’re giving it to. It’s still best to directly help the person who needs it. If you’re not sure the needy person will use your donation wisely, then find out what they need and get it for them.
ANIS HAS ALSO SHARED
- Contributed by: Kadek Anis (via personal interview in Bali)
- Interview Date: 12 August, 2013 (at Amed Harmony and into the mountain)
- Written, formatted and edited by: Krista Beauvais
- Photos: all photos are courtesy of Krista Beauvais
- Email: anisharmony [at] hotmail [dot] com