When I first started to form my vision for August Effects, I was determined to find a way to incorporate my passion for philanthropy into the business. Initially, though, I struggled to find a way to create real impact. With so many worthy causes, and so many organizations doing incredible work, how could I possibly choose where to focus the giving aspect of August Effects?
A few weeks after moving to Bali last year, I was at dinner with a friend who introduced me to Bali Children Foundation (BCF). She told me about the incredible work they do to bring education to disadvantaged children in remote areas of Bali. I was immediately drawn to the cause and reached out to the founder, Marg Barry, to set up a meeting. Once I met Marg and learned more about BCF, I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization and help them in any way I could. We set up a day to go visit the schools where BCF programs have been implemented and to see the magic that was happening first hand.
(Map of where BCF programs are located in Bali)
A few weeks later we set off on a winding 3-hour drive to the village of Tiguwasa in the North of Bali. This is a different Bali than you’ll see on your Instagram feed. A place where tourism is practically non-existent and where most foreign visitors will never set foot. It’s a remote, mountainous, area where the jungle is dense and resources are incredibly scarce. The poverty is extreme and the education system is one of the worst in the world.
In some of the homes in these villages, there will be families of 8-12 people living under one roof. Running water and food is hard to come by and the living conditions are unimaginable for most. These families live off the incredibly small income they make from their crops or animals. The poverty cycle is inevitable UNLESS we can find a way the children in these villages can receive a proper education. This where BCF comes in.
What does BCF Do?
BCF identifies areas of Bali that are in critical need of education. It then seeks to work with village leaders and heads of schools to implement BCF programs. What that entails is BCF installing a flat screen TV in one the school classrooms. This dedicated classroom will then be used for English classes taught by professional educators hired and trained by BCF. BCF has spent years developing (and constantly improving) a program of modules they use to teach the children English based on their age, grade and education level. BCF teachers will teach classes a few times a week and the program is structured so that the lessons are fun and engaging. Full of games and interactive activities, BCF English classes are often the kids’ favorite class of the week. The classes, flat screens, and teachers are paid for entirely by BCF. Without them, the majority of these children would not have the chance to learn English (it is not taught at the schools in which BCF implements their programs).
In addition to English studies, BCF provides computer labs and training to older students in their programs. This is a valuable asset to these children as they move on, after graduation, to colleges, vocational programs, or the increasingly competitive job market.
BCF doesn’t stop there. Their long-term goal is to break the poverty cycle for families in these remote villages. Once the children in BCF’s programs reach senior high school, they are eligible for BCF-provided scholarships to colleges and vocational schools. In addition, BCF provides high school students and recent graduates with financial coaching and advice on buying and making payments on a motorbike (a necessity in Bali for getting to and from work or school). For graduating students, BCF provides interview coaching (and in many cases job opportunities) through its long-standing connections in Bali’s hospitality industry.
BCF’s program is rigorous, but highly beneficial. Children are taught what it takes to make good grades, go to college or vocational school, interview for a job, hold a job, and most importantly, be self-sufficient. BCF’s goal is to set its graduates up for success in the modern world. Graduates often move on to colleges, vocational programs, or full-time positions that they would have never been able to dream of if it weren’t for their BCF education. Ultimately, providing these children the pathway for success not only breaks them free of the poverty cycle, but also allows them to send money home to benefit their families and communities. BCF is currently bringing educational opportunities and training to a total of 3,734 school students, 50 tertiary students, and 33 recent graduates, many of whom are girls.
On a more recent trip with BCF, Marg (the founder) told me about the importance of the English dictionaries BCF uses to help teach the children. She explained that dictionaries (given to children early on in the program) often become prized possessions for the children. The kids know that learning English is a huge asset and cherish the ability to have a dictionary of their own. However, given that dictionaries are typically passed down through classes, they are often in bad shape and short supply. BCF, Marg explained, is consistently in need of new ones.
This struck a chord with me, knowing that this $4 dictionary could literally make all the difference in these children’s lives. That’s when I realized that August Effects was the perfect platform to help BCF obtain these dictionaries. We decided that for every purchase made on the August Effects website, we would donate a dictionary to a child in these villages. This element of the company inspired me to make it a success even more. I truly believe every child deserves the right to a proper education and the tools to help them achieve success. Our hope is that through August Effects’ partnership with BCF our products will not only embody the love and warmth of Bali but also bring education and opportunity to the communities that inspire them.