Article by Aaron Baumgartner & Jennifer Lasater
In November 2017 Mt. Agung in Bali, Indonesia erupted fives time spewing poisonous gasses and ash 2,000 meters into the air. The airport was closed and thousands of people were evacuated for fear of larger eruptions. A 4-year-old student from the XLIS Early Childhood Education program (ECE), Aimar, overheard his parents talking about this disaster and came to school very concerned. Another student, Kai, who is Indonesian, began to share his own experiences of what it was like in Bali. Together they shared the information with classmates, other 4-year-olds, who all began to show empathy and concern for the people in Bali.
As the children learned that the people in the evacuation zone needed masks to protect themselves, they made connections between themselves and those in Bali. Together they investigated how they could help those who were without a home. Suggestions included sending food and water, sending “cute firemen” to help them, water and giving them face masks. After lots of discussion, they decided that they had a lot of air pollution masks and would give them to the people who needed them. The question remained on how to get the masks to Bali. More investigation and research followed, and students realized that one mask cost about 20 RMB. One student said, “I have 100 RMB I can give them,” followed by another who said “My mom and dad have a lot of monies.” Their homeroom teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Lasater, asked if they wanted to do it themselves or ask others in the school to help them. They decided to have others help, and set a goal of sending enough money to Bali to purchase 100 masks.
In the following days, students made creative donation boxes and went to each classroom at XHIS. They used pictures to help explain the disaster to other students and to ask for their help. The little 4-year-olds walked confidently into rooms full of teenagers, explaining there was a volcano eruption in Bali and that we were going to help them by donating money for masks and water.
To make the learning more visual for the ECE students, a poster was created, and a mask would be added to it for each 20 RMB collected, so they could see if they reached 100 masks. The students worked together to sort and count the money, and to chart the number of masks they could purchase.
While the 4-year-olds were raising money, the 3-year-old class, led by Mr. Aaron N. Baumgartner, decided that they could help by sending toys to kids who didn’t have them. They set their goal at 100 toys. A parent, Rui, who operates a local charity called Infinite Love, heard about the efforts of these young children. She passed the word to local companies, who donated to both efforts as well.
All the money collected in Xi’an by XLIS and Infinite Love was sent from Gran Melia Xi’an to Sol Beach House Benoa Bali (another MHI Hotels property) who helped facilitate our charitable efforts on the ground in Indonesia. Their assistance began with a first visit to the Refugee camp located in Br. Dinas Tukad Sabuh, Kelurahan Duda Utara, Kecamatan Selat, Karangasem Regency (5km from the Agung Mountain where the volcano erupted). They checked the area and analyzed the needs of the 55 families living there, and drafted a plan of action. The execution of that plan would take place a few weeks later. 16 participants made a second visit to the area to share the donation money, a total of 65 million Indonesian Rupees, with those 55 families. In addition, the MHI Hotels in Bali sent food, such as rice, sugar, vegetables, fruit, oil, milk, eggs and salt, along with other necessities like clothes, masks, towels and bed sheets.
The team also included a doctor and a nurse from the hotels’ clinics. They gave free medical check-ups and provided medicine and treatment for those people who needed it.
These successful efforts have inspired others in the XLIS community to help the cause. One student, Kevin, age 5, asked his parents for some money for Bali. He told his parents, “I want to fly to Bali to help these people.” When they told him it was too dangerous he responded, “That’s okay, I will be fine. I am not afraid.” Later, when asked how helping the people of Bali made him feel he said, “I feel happy because people got water and food.” Another student sold her used toys to raise money for the Bali relief. When asked about the efforts of her young students, Mrs. Lasater beamed with pride. “As a classroom teacher it makes me proud and honored to be a part of this,” she said. “These little ones spent hours working on the entire process, they asked questions, found answers and took action. This is what we want for the leaders of the future.” Kai also reflected on the class efforts for Mt. Agung. He said, “They gave money for food, t-shirts, water and other stuff. I want to see the volcano again to see if it is still bad.” He was also concerned about the flooding that had occurred in the same area around the same time.
This small class of 3-to-5-year-old children in Xi’an, China educated others about a disaster in another country and reached out to help, proving definitively that little ones can change the world. They may be little, but their hearts are big.
Aaron and Jennifer are teachers at XLIS.