In considering Bali, itís easy to recall only of the recent bombing tragedy. Yet many West Australians have been visiting Bali since the 1980ís and despite that event still have a strong affinity for the island. This personal link has at times been expressed in a desire to help the people of Bali and Rotary Clubs in WA have been involved in a number of charitable projects on the island through Rotary International. 

The Rotary Club of Swan Valley particularly wanted to participate, but did not have a vast amount of money, so in 1999 it looked for a low-cost project that could have a lasting impact. 

Because schooling is not compulsory in Bali, and the costs involved are equal to more than the monthly average individual income, many children were forced to drop out, despite being keen to gain an education. This is even more evident away from the tourist areas. 

The Club felt that this situation offered an ideal way for it to make a difference. It chose to support schools in an area around Sembung, a small village in an agricultural region about 45 minuteís drive north of Denpasar. 

For A$110 a year per student, Club members pay for school fees, books and pencils, school uniforms (including shoes and schoolbags), as well as nutritional supplements distributed on a monthly basis. The small amount left over supplies medication for worm eradication, which is a major health problem because of traditional hygiene practices and lack of clean water. 

The project is registered and supervised through Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) and as such, all donations and sponsorships are tax deductible in Australia. As a Rotary Project, not one cent is ever taken to cover administrative fees. The Swan Valley Club works in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Bali-Denpasar, with this project continuing to foster genuine international goodwill in a very personal way. Sponsors are encouraged to visit the schools and students while holidaying on the island, assisted by the local Rotary Club, and many have done so and been amply rewarded by the exuberant smiles of the children. 

When the Bali Sembung project began it sponsored three children. The following year the numbers grew to seven, and then last year to fourteen. Currently there are 54 students being sponsored and Rotary has hopes that numbers will continue to increase at this phenomenal rate. At least half the children are sponsored by people who are not Rotarians and around 20 of the sponsors are not from WA, so any member of the public who wants to become a sponsor will be most welcome. 

One thing about this project is certain Ė the impact that sponsorship will have had on the education of these children will greatly enhance their future lives and will foster regional unity and development.