Working in Munduk – A Busy Day with Lots of Students

Our early wake up call was becoming routine. The roosters usually start crowing around 5 am but we try to sleep in until 6. We greet the dawn over the rice fields and start the water kettle on the stove in the outdoor kitchen at Sanda House.

Our typical breakfast consists of oatmeal and coffee packets brought from home. Katy bought some strawberries which are grown in the local area so today we have a special treat.

Our drivers arrive at 7 am and we try to be at the first school by 730. Today we’re traveling to Asah Gobleg where 48 kindergartners are waiting for us. When we arrive we’re led into a covered outdoor badminton court where we’ll be working with the students. Their classrooms are being renovated so they’re holding school outdoors for a few more weeks.

Lining up for class at Asah Gobleg

It’s a big group but we have the system well established and our team knows their jobs well. We introduce ourselves as a group and then split into two teams – one to lead the warm-up songs and the other to prepare the craft project. After the songs the children gather on the outdoor stage and we quickly distribute the supplies.

Patricia helping the students with their projects

The kids are always so enthusiastic and well-behaved that it’s easy to forget that they started school for the first time a few weeks ago. A lot of credit goes to their teachers who are experts in 5-year old crowd control.

Sharon pitching in with student projects 

Our second stop of the day is at Wanagiri, another large school with 50 kindergartners in 3 classes. Most kindergartens are stand-alone schools that serve a local village but Wanagiri is attached to a larger primary school with grades 1-6. It’s fun to interact a bit with the older students who speak quite a bit of English since they start learning it in the 4th grade.

The students of Wanagiri

After school ends, we say goodby to each student. Our team lines up by the door and each student takes our hand and touches it to their forehead as a sign of respect and thanks. This farewell is always an emotional time for our group.

We have time for a wrap-up meeting with Iluh before leaving Sanda House. Each year we plan a few days of rest and reflection after working in the schools. This year we’re heading to Siririt on the less developed north coast of Bali. The drive is only an hour as we say goodby to the the beautiful mountains of Munduk.

Kathryn and Michael leaving Sanda House


Working in Munduk – A Visit to our Smallest School

Once again we’re up at 6 am for our day working in the schools. Today we’re splitting up the team. Sharon is going to Gobleg to observe the entire school day and the rest of our group is heading off to the school in Ringdikit. We don’t get to visit this school each year because it’s far off the beaten path but it’s one of our favorites for a variety of reasons.

First, it’s Iluh’s home village so it’s great to travel there with her. It’s also the first (and only so far) school that was built through the generous donations of our Heart, Mind & Soul sponsors. The school only has eleven students because the village is so small. When we were last there several years ago, the building was a concrete frame with temporary plywood walls. After supporting the school with donations for two years, the local government took over and completed the construction with a community building on the same site.

Iluh, Kathryn and Patricia working with the students

Ringdikit School

On our last visit we dedicated the building to Peggy Brown, who was Kathryn’s first teacher aide in 1983. Peggy was a mentor to Kathryn and many other teachers at Saints Simon and Jude School in Huntington Beach, CA. She continues to inspire us each day as she struggles with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Dedication to Peggy Brown

After visiting Ringdikit, we hiked to our favorite waterfall and visited the home of our sponsored student, Ni Luh. Ni Luh currently attends vocational school in a nearby city so we enjoyed the company of her parents, siblings and other family members in the area. It was a unique experience to see how simply they lived in the jungle. Most of the family earn their living as clove pickers. Their daughter’s study of accounting will someday enhance the entire family’s standard of living.

Michael and Kathryn at the waterfall

The home of Ni Luh, our sponsored student

Sharon spent the afternoon helping with an English class in Gobleg and didn’t return until late in the day. We ended the day with Iluh and her husband Gede at a quiet dinner.


Working in Munduk – Our Typical Program

We were up at 6 am this morning to organize the supplies for our first day in the schools. Accommodations in Sanda House are pretty basic – we have beds that consist on foam blocks over a rope support system. There’s also a basic kitchen with sink, propane stove and refrigerator, as well as a bathroom with a western-style toilet and cold shower. The setting is spectacular, however – completely surrounded by rice fields with a distant view of the Bali sea. There’s a few families who live in simple huts nearby that greet his warmly as they pass on their way to work or school.

Sunset from Sanda House

Our local drivers arrive at 7 am and we’re soon on the way to our first school of the day in Munduk village. We arrive early so we can watch these children arrive and witness their morning ritual of prayer, stretching and warmup, and a variety of welcome songs for us. These schools are public but they integrate Hinduism into their program as it is the official Balinese religion.

Lining up for class

​​Our typical time at these school starts with an introduction about ourselves and where we come from, demonstrated on an inflatable globe that we bring with us. After that, we sing and dance with some all-time favorites, the Chicken Dance and one that’s called Bear Hunt. The kids really enjoy these icebreakers and sometimes it’s hard settling them down afterward.

Next we do a craft project with the students. This year it’s a mask on which you scratch off the coating with a stylus to reveal the colors underneath. The kids add some feathers and beads and their creations are complete.

Iluh demonstrating our craft project

After the project is finished we pack up quickly, line up for the children to say thanks and jump in our cars to head to the next school. When we try to visit two schools a day and kindergarten class ends at 1000, we don’t have time to linger.

Our next stop in Gesing follows the same program as the first school. It’s interesting to see the range of schools that we support. Some have nice facilities and good organization while others are less so. Our objective is to raise the level of the lower schools so that all the kids get the same level of education.

After Gesing our work is not yet done. At 1100 we have invited the teachers of each school to join us for our training program led by Sharon. Our friend Nyoman hosts the training at this B&B nearby, and the teachers really enjoy Sharon’s presentation and the supplies we provide for their classrooms. The teachers stay until 1 pm and then we have lunch.

Teacher training at Nyoman’s hotel

Around 3 pm we meet with Iluh to discuss her ideas for improvements needed at each school. We’re blessed by several donors who contribute each year for this purpose. In the past, we’ve provided playground equipment, cabinets and lockers, and even a building for a new school. As our students have grown, we also need ways to fund their education in high school or vocational school. Not all of our sponsors can afford this added expense which can add $200 or more to their annual donation. Luckily, we have several sponsors who have made up the difference so far.

After the meeting we have dinner and walk home from the restaurant, serenaded by the chorus of dogs that occupy every home in Bali.


Ubud to Munduk

Leaving Ubud is always a little hectic because we’re trying to move 7 people and 14 big pieces of luggage into two rather small vehicles. Luckily our driver/fixer Wayan is a master of packing and soon we’re on our way up the mountain to Munduk.

Along the way, we stopped at Bedugal to visit the market, pick up some supplies and have lunch at the temple on Lake Beratan. The sponsor student party starts at 3 pm so we don’t have too much time to linger. Just a quick stop at Sanda House (where we’ll stay while working on the schools) and off again to Iluh’s house for the party.

Sharon, Kathryn and Patricia at the Bedugal Market

Ulun Dano Beratan Temple

We’re a bit late when we arrive and the compound is already packed with students and their parents. Since we sponsor more students each year, the party grows accordingly. This year we did more advance promotion and the turnout is almost 100%. It looks like about 200 people including family members.

Sponsored students (boys) at the annual Heart, Mind & Soul party

Sponsored students (girls) at the annual Heart, Mind & Soul party

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned the activities at the party – cards prepared by the students for their sponsors, backpack and supplies handed out, and photos taken. After the work is done, we enjoy a traditional dance presentation by some of the students. Ilu’s two-year-old daughter participated and you can tell she’s got the makings of a star.

Iluh’s daughter, Emma

​​​The dance is followed by a few games. The first is a rice cake eating contest that everyone really enjoys. It’s followed by a water balloon toss that is also a tradition at these parties. 

It’s finally around 6 pm and getting dark when everything finally winds down. It’s a great feeling when we see four empty bags and know we’ve made a small improvement in the lives of 66 students and their families.

There’s just time for a quick dinner before heading back to Sanda House for bed. Tomorrow we’ll be up at 6 am to start our work in the schools.


Day Two in Ubud

An important part of our service trip to Bali is building the working relationship within our team and immersing ourselves in the local culture before we visit the schools. Today our group toured small villages in the Ubud area on bicycles. Getting off the busy roads with their constraint drone of motorbikes is a great way to appreciate the true beauty and tranquility of the island.

The HMS team visiting temples off the beaten path

After the bike ride, our team continued their adventure on a rafting trip down one of the many small rivers which run from the volcanoes to the sea.

Katy, Wayan and Bridget 

In the afternoon we made all of the last minute arrangements for the sponsored student’s party at Iluh’s house in Munduk. With 66 students (we added 3 more today!), their parents and random siblings, the party has the flavor of a military operation. Each student writes a note to their sponsor, receives their backpack and has their photo taken. Luckily we have 8 members of our team so everyone has an assignment.

In the evening, we went to the water temple for the highlight of our stay in Ubud. This is the first time we’ve been to the temple after dark and the experience is really different. We start the purification rite by changing into sarongs which are required to enter the temple compound. Our friend Wayan leads us through the ritual, first by entering the pool where the sacred water flows out of decorative spouts.

At each spout we splash water on our face three times before immersing ourselves completely and saying a prayer. Even though we’re at a Balinese Hindu temple, the similarities to a Christian sacrament are remarkable.

When we emerge from the pool, we take small offerings into the inner temple area and sit before one of the priests. The priest leads us in prayer and then offers us each holy water to drink and sprinkle on our heads. After the prayer ceremony, we quietly leave the temple grounds.

It’s been a long day but we grab some dinner and enjoy the quiet walk back to the villa. Tomorrow will be a day in transit as we head up to the mountains.


Day One in Ubud

Mike arrived around dinner last night so now our group is finally complete. The first order of business today is to meet with Iluh, our local site coordinator. Over the past few years, we realized that meeting with Iluh in Ubud a few days before we arrived in Munduk made a huge difference in our readiness to work in the schools. Plus we get to see our Bali sister that much sooner and catch up on her activities of the past year.

Rice fields surrounding our villa

During the meeting we made all the final arrangements for the service part of our trip: last minute details about the sponsored child party, transportation to the schools and adding a few more students to our sponsor list (more about that in tomorrow’s post).

After we said goodbye to Iluh we went to tour the Education Rocks compound and meet with Eke, the non-profit’s leader in Ubud. Education Rocks is an organization that pairs children in the US with a child in Bali to support their education and build cross-cultural ties. Since starting in 2008, their work has really grown and now supports over 300 students.

Kathryn at the Education Rocks compound

After the meeting we arranged a healing massage for Michael’s sore back. He hurt it packing our supplies for the trip. The day ended with some quiet time for dinner and a stroll back to our villa in the rice fields.

Tomorrow will be an early start for our team as we go for a bike ride and then whitewater rafting.

Crazy bamboo structure


Bali 2016 – Our Team

Last year’s service trip was really special because we had an “all family” group. Our daughter Kristianna and her friend Steve, our son Bennet and his friend Ruby, and our son Adam and his wife Heidi. Adam and Heidi had never joined us before so they finally got to experience firsthand the beauty of Bali and its people.

This year’s group is special as well. We’re thrilled to have our ace teacher trainer Sharon back with us after a few year’s absence. Sharon is a full-time kindergarten teacher so she really connects with the teachers in Bali.

Sharon preparing for teacher training

Also joining us are our close friends Patricia and Paul and their daughters Bridget and Megan. The young women are interested in nursing careers so we’ve connected them with a clinic in Ubud where they will volunteer their time while we’re there.

Patricia and Paul with daughters Bridget and Megan

The final American member of this year’s group is Mike’s sister Katy. Katy recently moved back to SoCal after living in NYC for ten years and we demanded that she take some extra time and join our merry band in Bali. She readily agreed!


Of course our trip would not be possible without our local Balinese support team. Wayan is our driver, fixer, confidant and enthusiastic go-to guy. We met Wayan on our first trip eight years ago and we’ve been blessed by his companionship ever since. Kathryn was honored to attend his wedding last December (only westerner in attendance!).

Wayan rockin’ his Earth House t-shirt

Rounding out our team is Iluh, our site coordinator in the Munduk region. Iluh is really the secret weapon of The Heart, Mind & Soul Project. She screens each student for need and delivers the funding for their uniforms, school supplies and all fees for their education. That’s a big job for 63 students in addition to working full-time for the tourism ministry and raising her two young children. No wonder we call her our Wonder Woman!

Michael, Kathryn and Iluh (yes, she’s only 4′-10″)

Tomorrow we drive to Munduk for the sponsored student party. We expect about 150 people so stay tuned for the report on all the festivities.


A Typical Trip to Bali

When we tell people about our work in Bali, their usual reaction is “Can I come too?” Many people have indeed joined one of our six trips to date. In fact, there have been a total of 23 volunteers that have travelled to Bali and worked in the schools of Munduk.

For those of you who haven’t been able to join us yet, I thought you might enjoy an overview of a typical trip to Bali with The Heart, Mind & Soul Project.

First, you have to get there.

We typically fly through Taipei because it’s the fastest and cheapest. The first leg from LAX to TPE is about 13 hours. After a 3-4 hour layover, the final leg to Bali is about 5 hours. So you’re spending almost a full day to get there. The time goes by quickly if you fly on a Hello Kitty plane.

Upon arrival we usually spend a few days in a quiet area to adjust to the time change and let go of any mental baggage from home. Then it’s time to fill the void with Balinese culture so we head to Ubud for a few days of immersion into the sights, smells and sounds of this cultural capital. The highlight of our time in Ubud is a visit to Tirtha Empul, the water temple. At the temple we participate in a purification ritual, immersing ourselves in the cleansing waters and offering prayers at each one of the fountains.

Leaving Ubud, we drive up into the central mountains of Bali and the rural villages of the Munduk region. Away from the Western influences of the beaches and bustling cities, the pace of life slows measurably as we arrive at Sanda House, our headquarters for our work in the local schools. We are currently sponsoring 6 schools in the region and we try to visit each one during our annual visits.

Each day begins at dawn as we prepare a light breakfast for the volunteers and review the schedule and assignments for the day. Our driver arrives at 7 am and we travel to our first school by 730. At the schools we introduce ourselves, sing a few songs (the chicken dance is always a hit) and work with the students on a simple craft project. It’s heartwarming to see the reaction from the students as they complete their project and proudly display them for their teacher and friends.

In the afternoon after our school visits, we have teacher training sessions and a special party for our sponsored children and their parents. Since we now have 55 students supported by our sponsors in Australia, Germany and the United States, it’s quite a celebration as we hand out backpacks filled with school supplies and special notes, photos and gifts from the sponsors. The children entertain us with a traditional Balinese dance and everyone joins in for a game of water balloon toss.

When our work in the schools is complete, we head back to a quiet area to unwind and reflect on the experiences we’ve shared with the students and all the beautiful people of Bali. We are refreshed and renewed by our small acts of service to them.

Our 2015 Heart, Mind & Soul service team



 This is our sixth trip to Bali to work with the school children of the Munduk region. It’s amazing how the years have flown by and our dream (actually Kathryn’s dream, more about that later) has grown. From its humble beginnings, our organization has expanded to support over 50 students, 7 schools and their teachers in a beautiful mountainous region far removed from the tourist areas.

This year has been especially fruitful as we decided to create a new vehicle for our work in Bali and other places near and far from home. The name of our organizatiuon is The Heart, Mind & Soul Project and our belief is that when the Heart is awake we know love, when the Mind is aware we learn truth, and when the Soul is alive we experience the Divine.

 Back to Kathryn’s dream…

During her high school years, Kathryn volunteered with Amigos de las Americas in Nicaragua. She traveled in rural villages (often alone) and provided immunizations to young children. That experience changed her life and instilled a love and openess to all people and cultures of the world. Her later career as a teacher was a natural outcome of her experience with young children.

 About 12 years ago, when our two oldest boys were in high school, Kathryn was looking for an overseas volunteer experience that would enrich their lives (and college applications). More importantly, she wanted to expand their world view in a way that can’t happen in southern California. She considered the Amigos program and well as some “Do it yourself” programs in a variety of foreign countries.

As often happens, life got in the way and the boys went off to college without that volunteer experience on their resume.

When our daughter started high school a few years later, Kathryn dusted off her dream and vowed to make it happen. A number of seemingly random events cleared the path.

 In 2008, Kathryn was diagnosed with breast cancer and our priorities shifted in a big way. It was a year filled with testing, diagnoses and big decisions on treatment. Although it was a challenging time, it provided clarity on the importance of healthy living and time spent with family. Later that year for our 25th anniversary, Kathryn finally got to visit a place on her bucket list- the island of Bali in Indonesia.

While we were there, we fell in love with the people and their culture. When we returned, Kathryn immediately went to work researching various charities that were active in Bali. She found one (Bali Children’s Project) that had operations in Bali and the USA. One of the most attractive features of BCP was its flexibility.

BCP has operations in Ubud as well as Munduk. The Ubud operation is much larger and better established. We didn’t see any opportunities in Ubud so we investigated the Munduk program. We found a perfect fit in a grass roots operation that offered a chance to make a difference in the lives of young Balinese students.

And so, in April 2010, we travelled to Bali with our two youngest children to visit rural village schools.

Kathryn’s dream was becoming manifest.



Bali Bound

In less than 12 hours we’ll be on our way to Bali. This will be our 6th trip in support of the students in the Munduk area.

Please follow our trip and learn more about Bali and its wonderful people.