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Dialogue: Helen Flavel - Aussie Humanitarian Meets the Founder and Main Force Behind The Helen Flavel Foundation - a Lady Making a Difference in the Lives of Hundreds of Balinese.

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Over 10 years ago, Helen and her husband, Ron, two successful Adelaide, South Australian business people, formed a foundation to provide a legal framework for charitable projects they had established in various parts of Bali.

Over time, the foundations's Bali projects have grown and expanded, together with the Flavel's love for their adopted island. recently caught up with the fast-moving and perpetually-busy Helen Flavel to find out more about the work of the foundation that bears her name.

The Interview: Helen Flavel Helen, what is the Helen Flavel Foundation and when was it started?

Helen Flavel: The Foundation started in early 2004, and is now registered in Indonesia as the Peduli Sesama Helen Flavel Foundation. A key part of the Foundation includes the Sukma Helen Flavel Learning Center, currently under construction in Singaraja.

Since its formation the Foundation has grown to the point where we have provided 200 students with scholarships. In addition, should a student have need of medical attention, or their family has a specific need, we are often able to fund those requirements. For instance, we are able to find resources for funding the repair or construction of houses, and the provision of wheel chairs and walking aids. The Foundation also currently assists in some of the funding needs of the Wanasraya Old Men's Home in Denpasar which is home to 50 elderly men and women.

The work undertaken by the Foundation started in a small way over 11 years ago when I helped families with housing, purchases of furniture and other living costs. I have also located funds for children's operations and actively assisted in the establishment of an animal shelter in Denpasar.

Currently, our focus is more and more on the provision of education and scholarships, within the Singaraja regency. (Editor's note: North Bali.) This is where we assist the poorest of the poor families. We believe that if you can give a child an education, it will help them in their future life more so than anything else. The second stage of the Sukma Helen Flavel Learning Center is planned to have accommodation for high school students coming from the mountain regions of the Singaraja regency. You say 100% of any money donated goes to those you're trying to assist. How does that work on a practical basis?

Helen Flavel: All of our donated money goes directly to the registered Foundation in Bali, which is under the direction and control of our Coordinator, Nyoman Sukadana MBA, and the Principal of our new learning Center, Dr. Nyoman Padmadewi.

All of mine and my husband’s out-of-pocket expenses in operating the Peduli Sesama Helen Flavel Foundation, amounting to well over AUS$ 9,000 per annum are covered from our own capital. My Husband, Dr. Ron Flavel has a Doctorate in Business Administration and is a CPA. He maintains the accounts for the Foundation, including monitoring the income and expenditure recorded by Sukadana Nyoman in Singaraja. Annual income and expenditure, and balance sheet are prepared as at 30 June each year. Your community assistance projects are many and varied: You assist schools, local community, animal welfare, and the aged in Bali. Where, in your opinion, is Bali's most pressing need for charitable assistance?

Helen Flavel: There is a need everywhere we look in Bali. Unlike Australia, there are very few government funded support programs. However, we realise that if we try to become 'all things to all people in need' our efforts will be dissipated. Hence, we now focus on provision of education and scholarships in the Singaraja regency. There are many other individuals, and organizations, that are meeting the needs of the Balinese in other regions. We only hope and pray that the latest bombing atrocity does not dampen tourists and sponsors willingness to assist. Helen, you've been at this for a while now. Is there a wonderful 'then and now' story you could share?

Helen Flavel: Last year Nyoman Sukadana asked Ron and I to visit a very elderly woman who lived with her widowed daughter and her 10 year old grandson in a tiny one roomed house. The aim of the visit was to see if we could have electricity installed. The house was in a very poor condition and the room where they slept, was so dark it was difficult to see inside. Ron managed to have a look at the roofing timbers and it was obvious to him that there was no way electricity could be installed, until the badly leaking roof was repaired. Nyoman organized a builder to see what could be done and on further inspection, large cracks where found. It was decided that repairing the roof was useless, as the walls were near to collapsing. Like many of the houses in this area, there was no kitchen; all food was cooked outside under a tree. The toilet was a hole in the ground in the back yard.

After a discussion with the family, we offered to knock the house down and rebuild. Fortunately, the neighbourhoods next door offered a room to the family while we proceeded with the rebuilding.

This was July 2004 and we needed the house ready before the wet season. We ask that the male relations help where possible. We also brought in workers from the village. The house was finished by the 23rd of November. When the house was finished it still only had one room for sleeping, but we had added a small room for cooking and a small bathroom and toilet.

The daughter supported the family from her little stall, where she made and sold flower offerings to the village people. She had to buy the flowers which allowed very little in profit. Nyoman talked to the daughter about making her little stall more viable. He told her she needed to plant seeds and grow her own flowers in a garden on the house site. This was done straight away and now they family have a little more money and their self esteem has risen dramatically.

Also, early last year whilst waiting to meet a group of children seeking sponsorship, I saw a man sitting on the floor. It was obvious that this man had a suffered a serious injury. I was told that his spine had been severed fifteen years previously, whilst working on the side of a river when the embankment gave way. He had been house-bound ever since. At that meeting we enrolled his two children into school and were in the position to immediately supply him with a wheel chair.

The wheel chair was donated by the Rotary of Largs Bay in Adelaide South Australia. This opened up a new life for him. He could actually join in with the village life again. We saw how a small gift can make such a large difference to a person's life.

During January of this year the wheelchair-bound man submitted a written proposal to us. He asked if it were possible for us to allocate funds to buy some tiny chickens, vaccinations, feed and help with making an enclosure to house the chickens. His aim was to sell the chickens when they were large enough and also to breed from some of the initial stock. He is successfully running this small business and is so happy to be able to support his family. He also embroiders dresses to earn extra money. To see the pride in this man's face is simply wonderful.

I firmly believe that, people don't want hand-outs; they simply need a hand to get them started. Wow, it seems there are many more similar stories you could share, if time permitted. If one of our readers wants to assist you in your efforts, how best can they do so?

Helen Flavel: People may wish to sponsor one or more students. Or, they may wish to send a donation for a specific purpose. Curren

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