Making a difference

This is a story that I have been looking forward to write. It is a story of a friendship between two boys from very different cultural backgrounds. And it is furthermore a story of the fact that we are all able to make a difference; of the importance of never feeling that even the smallest step we take towards helping someone or preserving something that is important to us is too small, and that we should never excuse not acting when we deep down feel like we should, could and want to by the fact that we are too young or old, or too small a part of a bigger picture, or whichever other reason we might use to convince ourselves to just accept the status quo.

My oldest son Marius, who is now 13 years old, met his friend Putu on the first day of school, when we just moved to Bali nearly two and a half years ago. Marius felt alone and insecure, and furthermore a bit insecure about speaking English. Putu was the only one who reached out to him and showed him around the campus, and they quickly developed a beautiful friendship based on the same sense of humor, a love for bicycling and for running around the jungle during recess.

Marius and Putu June 2020

Putu lives with his lovely mother in a small village close to Ubud, called Sibang, which was also where we lived in Bali. Putu’s father died when he was very young, and his mother works as a gardener and earns merely enough for their daily needs, and for their offerings to the spirits and Hindu Gods, as well as for religious ceremonies (which are a crucial part of the Balinese people’s lives). Putu’s life differs on almost every level from Marius’, and yet all their differences never mattered as the bond between them is based on empathy and respect.

I realised another profound level of Marius and Putu’s friendship one evening, as I was riding home from the beach with Marius on the back of my scooter. Marius said to me that getting to know Putu had made him realise that wealth is not only about money. He said: “Putu has a great life; he lives right next to school and therefore doesn’t have to ride a car for half an hour every morning and afternoon like lots of the other kids, he and his mum have a great relationship, they laugh a lot, he has two dogs, and he can bicycle around to see his friends after school. In a sense he is richer than many other people I know”
He also told me that Putu has never left Bali and dreams of one day travelling to Java – which in the light of all the many overseas travels most Green School families do almost seemed unbelievably humble. And then I realised that Marius was aware of exactly that humbleness, and that he treasured it.

We learn a lot from friends that come from entirely different cultural backgrounds than us. We learn about other traditions and ways of life – and furthermore, such friendships might encourage us to question things we take for granted due to our cultural fundamental assumptions, such as what wealth or succes means or what a good life consists of. And importantly, we learn that we, despite all our differences, might have more in common than with people who grew up in the house next door and come from the exact same cultural and societal background as us.

Putu and his mother, June 2020

In July 2020 we left Bali and moved back to Europe, and Marius and Putu had to say goodbye to each other.

Before we left Marius said to me: “I really want to help Putu and his mum renovate their house, because the roof is leaking. Could we make a fundraiser?” I loved that question! I have absolutely no experience with fundraising what so ever, but at The Green School Marius had learned about doing so as a way of kickstarting sustainable projects and conducting charity work. And so he and I did a bit of research and found a platform we could use, and over the week of us packing our suitcases and saying farewell to beautiful Bali, Marius took photos of Putu’s house, wrote a text about the project, and made a short video. As soon as we got to Europe he set up a fundraiser.

Marius wrote:

Dear friends and family,

Putu Darmajasa is my good friend who I met at school when I lived in Bali. He lives in a small village called Sibang in Bali, Indonesia with his mum. He is in 8th grade.  When Putu was little, his dad was hit in the head by a coconut that fell from a tall palm tree when he was working in the fields, which killed him. Since then, Putu and his mum have been alone. His mum works as a gardener at a school in Sibang, and only earns enough for them to take care of their daily needs. Their house is in need of major repairs but they have no money to spend on renovations. The roof is leaking, the walls need repairing and they don’t have access to drinking water in the house (they have to get it from a common well).

I would really like to help Putu, as he is a great friend and a really good person. I hope you will help me help him, as it would make a huge difference to him and his mum.

Thank you for supporting this project.

It was amazing to experience the level of support for the project. Within a couple of weeks Marius had reached the goal he set for the fundraiser, and he could close it and send the money to Bali. Via the amazing support of Stacia Acker (the mother of a girl in Marius’ class at The Green School) the renovation of the house began.

Today, I just received the last photos from the house-renovation (thank you Stacia!). Not only did both roofs of the home get totally replaced, there was also money for the dentist, as Putu has had some trouble with his teeth for a while.

In the below photos you can see the roofs before and after the renovation.

The work begins, August 2020
Before the renovation of the first part of the house
And after
The renovation of the second part of the home
October 2020

Thank you so much to all the amazing people, who have supported the project – you are a reminder that it is indeed possible to make a difference.

With love from Marius and Putu.

2 thoughts on “Making a difference

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