Beyond the water: A Balinese transformation

When people think of Bali, they picture lush green hillsides drenched by terraced rice paddies. But in northern Bali on the other side of the mountains, villages like Cempaga are dry, surviving months each year with little rainfall. Lindsay Beer is one of the directors of the Bali Children Foundation, a charity that operates orphanages in Bali and works to improve the health and wellbeing of Balinese children in general through improved living conditions and education.

“At Cempaga, a lot of villagers live up to four kilometres up the hill and have to walk into the village to buy water,” Lindsay says. “Five months of the year they have no other access to water, hygiene levels drop and the children become sick very easily. Buying water also affects their already very low incomes. In the dry months, families can spend a quarter of their income on water alone.”

The Reece Grant awarded to Lindsay will fund a vital part of a larger project that will bring water to everyone in the village for cooking, hygiene and crops. “We’ve already built three water storage stations, so the water can be pumped up the mountain. The last piece is to help get the pipes to the households, so water can flow by gravity to the people,” says Lindsay.

BCF Founder and CEO Margaret Barry says the project will have both short and long term results. “The lack of hygiene has hidden effects,” she explains. “There’s a large number of disabled people and about a third of them have significant hearing deficits, including complete deafness and muteness. We think it’s due to the water and hygiene issue, from children becoming sick with ear infections at an early age that remain untreated. When you become deaf at a young age, it impacts everything. The outcome isn’t just a shortage of skills, it’s a shortened life as well.” 

But it’s not just an issue of hygiene, it’s one of education and empowerment for the next generation of the community.

“If we can get water to every family in the village, it will cause incredible change,” Lindsay explains. The process includes traveling to remove villages to provide power to the schools, repairing roofs to install lights, and providing TV monitors. From there, the team will train the teachers and help set up classrooms with computers.

“These kids become educated and get modern employment, not just manual work in the rice fields. The education we provide is getting kids jobs. That makes the economy sustainable, but it all starts with the water.”