The Penestanan Project
Background to the problem
The Island of Bali is a unique blend of incredible culture and spectacular scenery. It is renowned for its exotic and masterful architecture, dance, artworks, temples, colourful religious ceremonies and enduring traditional culture - despite decades of tourism. All this occurs amid a rich and diverse environment of volcanic mountains, rice terraces, tropical beaches and verdant rainforest. These are some of the many reasons why Bali is often referred to as “The Island of the Gods”.
Unfortunately for Bali and many other countries around the world, the introduction of disposable plastics, chemical based farming and other toxic wastes are destroying the very attributes that make Bali so beautiful. Traditionally the Balinese used only organic materials for their packaging, which was not a problem to dispose of in their gardens, waterways or rural lands. With the rapid prevalence of plastics coming into this environment from outside, systems that worked for hundreds of generations have now become unsustainable.
A quick walk around any village or waterway in Bali will soon make apparent the huge extent of the problem. What were once pristine forests, fields and waterways are now choked with plastics and garbage. The rice fields that were once organic ecosystems, are being destroyed by over-use of chemicals and fertilizers, which flow directly into rivers, bathing and drinking water. Plastics and other rubbish are thrown directly into waterways, burnt, or buried. The toxins released then leach into the rivers, bathing pools, drinking wells, or are breathed in directly from the burning. These toxins are creating serious health problems for the Balinese, especially for the children who are growing up now amid all this pollution.
Please go to our plastics page for more details on the effects of plastic pollution.
This ever-increasing problem needs to be addressed immediately. Not only for the health and wellbeing of the Balinese people, but also for the health of the planet as a whole. And as tourism is the major source of income for most Balinese, it is also vital that the quality of Bali as an attractive and safe destination needs to be maintained and improved.
With all this in mind, Earth Children Global have begun an education and environmental clean up project in the village of Penestanan.
Penestanan, often referred to as “the artist’s village”, is a small village located in the wider area of Ubud – the arts, cultural and healing centre of Bali. It is also one of the closest villages to the sacred Tjampuhan River where 2 rivers meet forming a junction of sacred healing waters. The name Ubud is derived from the Balinese word meaning medicine or healing, referring to the healing properties of the waters from the Tjampuhan river.
This seemed a perfect place to begin.
The Penestanan Project
2004 - 2006
The concept for Earth Children Global took place over several years, with the founder, Wally Halvorsen forming a partnership with I Made Guru Darsa, the part-owner of the Secret Garden resort in Penestanan. Wally, a resident of Byron Bay, Australia, had been a regular visitor to Bali for over a decade. During this time he began to see the decline of the natural environment, and also a need for supporting the local children to remain in school. Many children can’t afford the basic necessities for school attendance, such as a uniform, books, and school fees.
During this time, Wally and Darsa arranged for the sponsorship of 35 children to attend school in Penestanan, and for the delivery of 18 boxes of computers to support the education of the kids attending the local school.
The management of school sponsorship for the kids was handed over to Bali Children’s Project in 2005. Please visit the Bali Children’s Fund site to find out more about the BCP and how you can sponsor a child.
The incidence of children in the area getting sick began to rise noticeably, especially from ear, nose and throat infections. Investigation around the main bathing hole at the river showed three rubbish dumps leaching directly into the river. A discussion was arranged with the governing body of the local community (called a Banjar), and they agreed to help remove all the rubbish and help keep the area clean in the future.
Funds were raised among the expat community, and Tiana Peters-Peirot joined Wally and Darsa in organizing the project and raising the funds to get it started. Plans were made to build a retaining wall, catchment drains and basins to prevent soil erosion and stabilize the area once the garbage dumps were removed. Then the area would be landscaped to include gardens, a meditation space near the river, statues of the Gods, an area for ceremonies, and a playground for the kids. Creating a usable space for the whole community.
During this time it became clear that the only way to prevent this kind of problem occurring again in the future was to begin educating the children about the effects of plastics, garbage, pollution and how to keep their environment clean.
In May 2007 the environmental training program and river clean up began.
The local children began to join Wally, Darsa and Tiana on walks around the village and rivers, picking up plastics and other garbage, and learning how to safely dispose of or recycle their garbage. In return for their assistance, the children receive a good meal, snacks, drinks, and book-packs for school. Within two weeks more than 50 children were attending these walks twice a week. A local doctor also gave lessons on hygiene and first aid.
The garbage problem at the river turned out to be far deeper and broader than originally thought. Over 200 jumbo sized garbage bags of rubbish were removed by hand from the river area.
You can also join the children on their weekly rubbish collecting walks. Walks begin at Baligen Bungalows, Jalan Penestanan, at 7:30am every Sunday. For more information please call: Satera +6281238327017 OR Narok +628123998720
By September 2007, the retaining wall and drains were completed. With special thanks to The Crystal Castle for their sponsorship of these structures.
October 2007 saw the last of the rubbish removed from the bathing area.
Funds are still needed to complete the gardens, buy the statues of the water Gods and to build the children’s playground. Funds are also needed to build a recycling center behind the shop, which will additionally provide extra funding for the project by selling recyclable materials to the larger recycling companies.
2007 TO 2018 Has seen ECG wind back due to funding and work loads. The loss of Tianna Peters-Pierot moving back to Holland with her husband Willem, also meant we lost a great Director and fund raiser for ECG.
After a chance conversation with Natalie Martin of nataliemartincollection.com LA in Australia in 2018 it was discovered we both had a mutual desire to give back to the people of Bali something special and a Sponsorship idea emerged.
From there ECG has been Re Registered as a Legal Yayasan in Indonesia.
2019 has seen the Goveror oF Bali passed the law banning Plastic bags in Supermarkets and large retail stores, with smaller shops given time to adapt to paper bags. With the Sponsorship of Natalie Martin we have just finalised the manuacture of the First 300 cotton re cycled shopping bags that are being given to all the households of the village of Penestanan Kaja (our base village).
With more to come we can supply the local Warungs at cost price allowing our village to become the first Balinese village to be plastic free within 6 months.