Bali International School Helps Victims of Mount Merapi Eruption and Indonesian Earthquakes

At Bali International School a group of teenagers used their love of fashion and rock music to help make a difference and to raise funds to send help to Indonesian victims of recent tectonic activity on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. Kayti Denham reports.

Bali International School pupils help raise money through their Merapi concert

Bali, 20 November 2010. Many people think teenagers today are utterly self absorbed, plugged in to i-Pods, Facebook, Skype, World of Warcraft, MTV and imitating the latest 'Idol' or reality TV star all in a quest to be 'cool'. However, at Bali International School in Indonesia rather than opting out, they are opting in, in a big way.

Famous local bands like Navicula donated their time and talent to help raise funds for disaster victims

They love having fun and enjoying life as much as the next teenager, but on a small island they learn to make things happen for themselves and those around them. So when, on September 30th 2009 a devastating earthquake rocked the nearby island of Sumatra claiming thousands of lives and entire communities, the school had organised bake sales and clothing sales to raise money to send directly to an organization called Quake Fund. Manned by volunteers already working in International Disaster Management, this group was able to use 100% of our money to buy tarpaulins and buckets and ropes, items desperately needed in the first days.

Funds raised at the fashion show helped Padang tsunami survivors over their trauma

In November some friends in music bands arranged a fund-raising night at a local music club and with the help of teachers and local musicians followed that with a "Rock for Quake Relief" gig in January. That boasted some of Bali's best loved rock performers including Geek Smile and Navicula, and raised over US$1,000 for Quake Fund in donations.

Local people tried to save crops and livestock while the choking volcanic ash from Mount Merapi billowed down

To mark the anniversary of the gig, three pupils - Julia, Carina and Pierre - decided to once again rally the community and stage an event. This time the idea was to keep it to the school community and allow it to become a showcase for the talents of school musicians, models and performers. The pupils liaised with outside sponsors to donate clothing for the show, rehearse with musicians, set stages, and design an entire event production - from posters and tickets all the way to goodie bags and door prizes for guests.

Fleeing Merapi's fury, refugees travelled any way they could to escape the massive disaster zone

With the assistance of teachers, the support of local band Navicula as headline act and huge support from the local fashion industry the event was a certified success on all levels. It showed that Bali International School embraces wholeheartedly all aspects of our caring school philosophy. Not only that, the next day we were able present our special guest, Kiwi Sudarsho, who had flown from Padang just for the event, a donation of over US$1,200 and the promise of more to come. Kiwi returned to Padang and initiated the next stage of his project bringing art activities into remote communities as trauma therapy, with a dedicated group of artists and students. Shortly after Kiwi left more tragic events hit the region when a tsunami hit the West Coast of Sumatra destroying many of the villages in the island chain, followed not long after by the eruption of Mount Merapi.

This time even more of the pupils banded together. Grade Six was studying volcanoes at the time so it meant a lot to them to a be a part of the group that initiated a fund-raising day. They prepared and sold breakfasts and milkshakes, and at the same time Jerinx (from the band Superman is Dead) and his team organized the collection of donations to be sent directly to the city of Jogyakarta.

The incredibly fine volcanic ash from the Merapi eruption will take months to clear completely

There was a personal angle too. Julia told the school how her mother, Yusi, was in Java helping and that over a 100,000 people had descended on Jogyakarta with no food, no money and no shelter to escape the eruption. Some of them were injured some were very old and some were tiny babies. So with the help of the Parent-Teachers Association we collected the most important items for the vulnerable victims. Our school secretary, Novi, found a transport company willing to drive over ash-covered roads with limited visibility, so we were able to send off boxes of goods directly to displaced refugees.

Now it is rainy season and on December 4th the government of Indonesia will stop its assistance to the internally displaced victims of all these natural disasters. While Julie's mother and her friends and colleagues are returning to the villages with survivors to help clean up, many of the villagers are on their own. They are returning to lands scorched by lava, to dead livestock and the prospect for a very bleak few months ahead. They will try to scrape a living out of the ashes of their once green fields and healthy crops.

Massive tectonic events like tsunamis, earthquakes and eruptions bring utter devastation to rural communities

Back at Bali International School, exam time plays on the minds of many of the pupils, but they still want to make two more collections. The final donation drive for the year will be for items to help in the clean up: boots, masks, overalls and rags; in fact anything that can help with the huge task facing the people so badly afflicted by the forces of nature.

If you think you can help, contact the Bali International School on and let them know.

Photography courtesy of Bali International School and Yusi Lamnan.