From being skeptical about the program to falling in love with all the kids – My Experience With VP Bali
Why did I decide to join VP Bali?
I had recently left my job and was in Mumbai for acting classes. I’d be free for the next 6 months and I wanted to travel and experiment with different things as I decide what I want to pursue as my career. While I was in Seattle, I proposed to my friends to visit Bali, and they rejected it telling that it's a honeymoon island. While that is true in many cases, you’ll definitely find a lot of solo travelers. So, I had this island in my mind since then and just did a google search for "volunteer programs in Bali" while I was in Mumbai, and luckily VP Bali was top in the list. They did a good job in marketing
I had wanted to volunteer for a long time and while I was in Mumbai, I had applied to a local volunteer organization but couldn’t do a lot with them because of the shorter stay duration in the city.
A will to travel, volunteer and a simple google search led me to VP Bali.
There were several questions that I had in my mind while I was applying. I'll answer a few of them and hopefully, it helps you while deciding you want to join VP Bali or not
Is the program real or a scam?
For any program that you apply for, a summer school, a volunteering program, internships, etc, this is the first thing that comes to mind- the authenticity of the program.
The first thing that you should do, is to go through the program website in details and judge how genuine it is. Nowadays, digital marketing has taken an upturn, so look for the program's Facebook group or page, Instagram page, and any other social media. Most of the times these programs should have pictures of and testimonials from past participants. That is how you will know the program is real.
You can contact any person from the group if you need to learn more about their experiences. You can also email the organization for additional details that might help you decide.
In VP Bali’s case, Kim (Kimberley, founder of VP Bali) and the rest of the staff had done a great job of maintaining Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest pages. And in one of her emails, she also suggested adding her as a friend on Facebook. And I don’t think this gets more real than that
The application process
The application process was pretty straightforward. You need to fill an application form with personal details and work, volunteer and travel experience. If lucky, you’ll get an email from VP Bali, confirming the acceptance within a day. You have to submit the volunteer program fees as a combination of registration fees and the program fees, which includes, accommodation and transportation from Ngurah Rai Airport to the homestay.
You will need to pay registration fees to confirm your participation and voila, you are now ready to be a VP Bali volunteer.
How long do I volunteer?
I really loved the flexibility of time that VP Bali offered. I couldn’t volunteer in Mumbai because of less time, but with VP Bali it perfectly fit with the time I wanted to spend in a place.
The minimum time that you can volunteer for is 2 weeks and the maximum is 3 months, and if you like it, you can extend it beyond 3 months as well.
Therefore, as per your comfort and feasibility, you can decide the time you want to stay. Most of the times the first week goes into ramping up and getting used to a new place, school, students, and the teaching techniques and ideas.
What do I do as a volunteer?
The program is really simple. You need to teach English to the kids and come up with innovative ideas to keep the class interesting. No need to stress out on that, because Kim shares tips and tricks from past volunteers as part of the Volunteer Preparation Kit. There are 9 rooms and each room has two classes. First class has younger kids and the second one generally has teenagers, so you can adjust your teaching style accordingly.
Do I need a work visa?
No, you can enter Bali as a tourist and work as a volunteer, and since you are not going to earn during your stay, you do not need a work visa.
Citizens of many countries get a free entry in Bali for 30 days and can get it extended for an additional 30 days for 35 USD. For extending it beyond 60 days, the process is a little more complex, I would advise you to discuss your plans with Kim, she'll be the best person to guide you.
My experience in the homestay
During your time with VP Bali, you are provided an accommodation with the local family. You share a room with another volunteer. This way you get to experience the local Balinese family culture first hand and interact with volunteers from different nationalities.
My experience in school
We had an orientation meeting in our homestay before the school with Kim and Tutik, in which we were given an overview of what happens in the class and different ways in which we can try to teach our children. There were two of us who had joined that week.
Despite the orientation and other helping material, we were still not sure what to expect and felt kind of unprepared. Don't worry, this is totally normal as a person who had never had a teaching experience and that too in another country. There are always other volunteers and the members of the VP team to help and guide you.
We were given Room 1 and class one had almost 50 students. I was a little scared and nervous. Questions like, What if these kids get bored? What if they don’t understand me? How do I start? Would they outsmart me? Will they play tricks? It was a whole lot of emotions and expectations.
We were 5 volunteers in the first class and we decided to split it into 5 groups. My very first feelings were - Whatttt??? Am I going to take of 10 students on my own? Where do I start from?
So everything on my first day was impromptu picking up ideas from what Kim and other volunteers told us about kids. I started with revising the Alphabets because I felt that is the first thing the kid should know as part of English language and it also helped me gauge the level of the class. I was getting even more conscious and worried about not boring my kids, so I came up with an idea for them to draw and color for every alphabet, eg: A - Apple, B - Banana, and so on.
By the end of the class, I casually wrote good on one of the kids’ copy and all of them rushed towards me asking for a good job. That's when I recalled the time when I was a kid, craving for a Good or Excellent from my teacher. The class ended on a good note despite all the apprehensions and now the kids knew my name 🙂
The second class had teenagers who were quieter. This time we didn’t split the class, and I spent most of the time observing what other volunteers were doing.
VP Bali is not only about teaching the kids, but it's also a cultural learning and involvement for volunteers. From attending ceremonies to learning more about Balinese culture every Wednesday to kids performing Balinese dance for farewells, working with VP Bali is a wholesome experience.
I love the objective of this program, to bring all kids to a level and not just focus on only the strongest or weakest ones. Engaging them to learn, teaching them new games and laugh along with them.
These kids will solely be your responsibility when in class, they learn what you say and do, I would really suggest to brush up your language and actions a bit before you come here, because we don’t want to teach our kids anything offensive or abusive.
You fall in love with the kids with every passing day. Its a pity I stayed only for two weeks, By the time I knew what is the right technique for me to teach them, it was time to go. Ohhh!! I love them soo much. I wish I could remember their names.
Now I know, that its one of the best feelings when your teacher remembers your name and gives you attention
As I left the school, I had tears in my eyes and smile on my face - a beautiful experience and an endless love that I got.
PS: It makes me miss my kids as I write this post and I feel terrible