Portland/Vancouver volunteers to Kupang, Indonesia

On March 25th, 21 volunteers from the Portland/Vancouver area and a father and daughter from Southern California embarked on a long journey to Kupang, Indonesia to construct a multi-purpose sports court at Lentera Middle School.  Kupang is one of the most easterly islands of Inodnesia, East Timor, roughly 1200 miles east of Jakarta.  The group was comprised of 8 students from Seton Catholic High School in Vancouver, 3 families with young children and our Southern California counterparts.  Almost half of the group has participated in one or more Courts for Kids trips in the past.

The school at which we constructed the court was a dilapidated old building that was recently purchased from the city to be torn down and rebuilt.  We worked closely alongside 20 Indonesian workers who will also be helping with the demolition and reconstruction of the new school to go along side our newly finished court.  These men would earn a premium pay of $10 per day versus the $5 per day they earn in Jakarta for back breaking manual labor.  They were a wonderful group of young men, that worked side by side with us from the moment we arrived, accepted us as one of them immediately, and helped construct a fantastic court in 3 days time.

During the course of the trip we had the opportunity to participate in several community service projects in addition to the construction work.  At the local Lentera elementary school, we spent 3 half days visiting with the students, working with them on lessons, playing and learning from one another.  On the last day in the community we participated in providing a hot lunch to the 600 plus students of the school.  We shopped for groceries the prior evening, helped make the meal the following morning,  and participated in serving the meal to the students and staff.  A side effort to our fund raising for this trip was to raise money to support this lunch program, as most families in Kupang live below the local poverty level.  The students and families on our trip each took ownership in raising monies, either at their individual schools or through private donations.  In total we raised enough money to give the school a gift that will allow them to now provide a hot lunch to the school twice a week versus the once a week Wednesday lunch the students now receive.

We also had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage with over 108 children.  When we left Portland on our journey we carried with and checked 31 duffle bags and suit cases loaded with toys, clothing, toothbrushes, coloring books, etc that we had collected to share with the

orphanage.  Only 7 checked bags traveled back with us as all of these items were left to the orphanage and school.   We played, they sang for us, we went to the beach with the older kids and had a friendly game of soccer.  It was an incredible day.

Because of the distance we traveled, we had the opportunity to celebrate Easter in Kupang, attended a mass at a local Catholic Church, and spent part of the day jumping off the rocks into the Indian Ocean.  We all are especially grateful to Jason Myers and all of the teachers from the Lentera school that hosted us for the week, flawlessly got us from point A to B, loaned us their cars for transportation and gave of their time to make our trip so memorable.

Overall an incredible trip with a great balance of work and interacting with a great community of people!

Click for a video recap.

I found that once I stepped off that plane, onto Indonesian soil, all prior fears fell by the wayside.  Day after day I was overwhelmed by the beautiful and awing energy of the land, the culture, the people and the overall welcoming and embracing spirit of the country.  All I had known about Indonesia was that it comprised over 17,000 islands, one of which was Bali, a honeymoon go-to for thousands of newlyweds.  Anything beyond that, I would learn “on the 
It took me almost two full years to build the courage to commit to my very first Courts for Kids trip.  My international travel experience was limited and candidly, I questioned my ability to fully contribute to the court building, physically.   I was worried that I might not add much value to the team.  After much self-coaching, it was finally time to put my big girl pants on and plan my first CFK trip to SE Asia, and with husband and 10-year-old son, I was ALL IN.

job.”  And did I.  Instantly, I felt at home and at peace.  Immersing myself in the sea of hopeful children, many in soiled clothes or completely decayed teeth, I was moved.  Moved that regardless of the fact that they regularly missed meals and never enjoyed the luxury of an air conditioned space, they were always all smiles.  They listened to and adored the same music that I did thousands of miles away.  We found common ground in mutual kindness and the lyrics of Bruno Mars and that touched me beyond words.

 Whether it was working the chain gang bucket brigade of cement, cutting rock or nursing my wounds from a day of back breaking work, or leading a 1st grade class in three rounds of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” I was proud to be a part of such an amazing and awesome initiative.  After 12 days of intensive work and play, I realized that I had gained an entire new family, in both my friends in Indonesia as well as my travelling companions.  And for that, I will be forever grateful for Spring Break of 2013.  The trip that made me realize how small 

I am, in this massive and inspiring world.

 I turned 39 during this trip.  And can’t imagine a more poetic way to end my 30s.  By stepping outside of my comfort zone and into a 3rd, albeit still beautiful, world country replete with promise and HEART.

 Thank you Courts for Kids.