Indonesia Travel Stories
Helping a poor girl in Bali
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Story submitted by Valerie from Australia 27th June 2009
My boyfriend and I traveled to Bali 2 years ago for a 10 day holiday just before Xmas. We had spent some time in Kuta and Ubud before going up to Lovina on the north coast of Bali.
While Kuta was showing some signs of increased tourism after the terrorist bombings, Lovina was very much deserted, we only saw a few tourists there during our stay. We did the usual things of dolphin watching, snorkeling and went to the hot springs and Buddhist Temple in the hills above Lovina.
As there were not a lot of tourists I guess we were a bit of an attraction to the locals. We got hassled a little bit the first few days we were there, down on the beach with everyone trying to sell us sarongs, fruit, necklaces made from seashells and wooden carvings, mainly of dolphins.
After a few days all the locals had given up on trying to sell what ever it was they were selling. The first day I had bought some of the jewelry from a group of girls. We saw these girls everyday on the beach and spent a fair bit of time just chatting with them. Most of them were quite young and shy though the eldest was 14 years old and called herself Madonna. She was quite the personality.
Madonna told us her short and sad life story of how her parents could not afford to send her to school as it was expensive. She had spent a few years in primary school though high school was too expensive so she had been doing a bit of work as a house cleaner to an old Dutch man that was living in the hills of Lovina.
She told us she really wanted to go to Hospitality school which would allow her to get a good job in one of the many hotels in Lovina or elsewhere in Bali. She seemed so determined to do this and had wished this for a few years now.
Well our holiday had finished and we had to return to Australia though I thought a lot about Madonna and had a real desire to help her. My boyfriend was skeptical as he had spent a lot of time in Indonesia and had heard these stories before though I was determined to help.
3 months later we went back to Bali for just a quick 1 week holiday. We spent a few days in Kuta relaxing then went back to Lovina to visit Madonna. I had emailed her to let her know we were coming and had told her we had wanted to visit the Hospitality school that she wanted to go to. We had not suggested we would help her though she had already arranged for us to meet with the principal of the school.
So we got to Lovina and explained to Madonna that we would help pay for her schooling which she was very excited about. The next day we went with Madonna and her mother to the Hospitality school and meet with the Principal and Vice Principal. They didnít speak any English so Madonna had to do the translating.
They gave us the costs and provided us with the bank account details for the school. It was only going to cost A$200 for her to complete the basic hospitality training course with an option to continue to do further study. We were prepared to spend the A$200 to get her started.
We went back to Australia and transferred the money to the schools bank account. We continued to receive emails from Madonna saying that she had started her course and she was very happy that we had helped. We got general emails saying how she was going and she missed us and hoped we could visit her again in Bali.
Then one day we received an email from her, just saying the usual that she was doing well at school and looking forward to getting a job. The difference was she had not just sent this email to us, it was addressed to about 10 other people, all western names from around the world.
Alarm bells started to ring and we emailed the 10 names explaining that we knew Madonna and had paid for her hospitality course. We received a few replies within a couple of days. One was a doctor in France, an elderly couple in Holland and a women in England. They all said that there must be some mistake as they were paying for her schooling. After a few email exchanges we found that we were all paying for her schooling.
We emailed Madonna and told her we were in contact with these other people. We got an email back from her apologizing though not really explaining where the money was really going. We quickly lost contact with her after that.
To this day we havenít worked out if the school was in on some scam and pocketed some of the money and giving the rest to Madonna. We are not sure if Madonna even started the hospitality course or was working full time to scam friendly westerners.
We thought we had done the right thing to visit the school and pay the money directly to them though obviously you can not be too careful sending money. It was only A$200 and we are still happy that it would have helped Madonna and her family in some way though are disappointed in the long run.
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Contributed 27th June 2009
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