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Review for International Humanity Foundation, San Diego, CA, USA

Rating: 4 stars  

I am Ilya Katrinnada from Singapore and I am a student at Yale-NUS College. Over the summer, I interned at the IHF Banda Aceh center in Indonesia as a work-study volunteer. Since I was in elementary school, I have been wanting to work at an international NGO that deals with poverty, and being there meant that my childhood dream had come true. I decided to apply for an Indonesian center because I can communicate in the local language, and also because I wanted a place to comfortably experience my first Ramadan (the Islamic month during which Muslims fast from dawn till dusk) outside of my home country. And also because Indonesia, for various reasons, has a special place in my heart. Three months ago, when I first told some of my friends that I was heading to Banda Aceh, I received mixed reactions. A handful warned me about the strict enforcement of Shariah Law, some told me that there is nothing much to do here, and many others were really excited for me. Regardless of what people had said, I was very happy to be spending my summer break with IHF Banda Aceh. From teaching introductory sentences to kids as young as seven years of age and facilitating intellectual discussions amongst high school students, to receiving an Acehnese birthday bash involving flour, bird eggs and water from the drain, and smiling at passers-by while riding through the countryside en route to watching the sunset at the beach, my days were nothing short of amazing. My experience had taught me so much. Firstly, I learnt the intricacies of running an international NGO. My online tasks exposed me to what occurs behind the scenes, such as promoting IHF to people all over the world and finding sponsorships for deserving children (which is always very rewarding). On the other hand, my at-center tasks showed me the importance of being spontaneous and flexible – no matter how many students turn up for lessons or activities, the show must go on. Secondly, I learnt that in order to win a child’s heart, it is important to know how to play his game. During my time there, I taught taekwondo to some of the younger kids. Some of the boys already had some knowledge of martial arts, and I feel that this common ground really helped me establish a connection with them. We moved from martial arts to playing football and volleyball, and just talking about life. Thirdly, I learnt the value of community. There was a strong sense of community in Aceh, and this was portrayed every day when kids and volunteers from various ages and backgrounds walked through IHF’s gates. We taught each other and learnt from one another. We always had a good time together, and the more people there were, the merrier it was. To me, IHF was more than just a center – it was indeed a family. And the moment you decide to join us, you will immediately be welcomed with open arms.

Role:  Volunteer