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Stories from Design Bridge: Volunteering in Bali

Last year, our Singapore Studio welcomed the brilliant Mafalda Manteigas on a 6 month internship with our 3D team (and we’re happy to say that Mafalda will soon be joining us as a full time Presentation Executive later this month). During her time with us in 2016, Mafalda made several 3D project mock ups, worked on beautiful presentation slides, and was a very keen and proactive member of the team. And to make the most of her time in Asia, Mafalda also travelled to Bali to volunteer for Yayasan Widya Guna, an Indonesian not-for-profit organisation aimed at helping children with special needs. Here she is to tell you a bit more about her experiences…


I’ve been helping out with non-profit organisations since a very young age and I had wanted to work with children with special needs for a little while. I love working with people and I’m passionate about travelling and experiencing new cultures, and Bali is a place I’d always wanted to visit. I learnt that most schools in Bali cannot accommodate children with disabilities, but the special needs children program at Yayasan Widya Guna works with local children to ensure that they receive the support they need in their education, and teaches them skills to help them become more independent. The school also promotes the arts and volunteers live with the founders of the school, sharing the family compound. It was the kind of experience that I was looking for.

When my colleagues at Design Bridge heard about my volunteering plans, they immediately offered to help. I sat down with the HR team to discuss what my tasks would be at the school and what the kids needed. Alongside basic and useful school tools that the children have little or no access to, we decided that I should also take along things that I could fit in to my lessons to make them a bit more meaningful.

We placed a box in the Studio where people could donate art materials and school supplies. The team were incredibly supportive and generous, and I had all sorts of books, sketchpads, pencil cases, folders, colouring pencils, marker pens, paints and other supplies for me to distribute amongst the classes when I arrived in Bali. We also held a fundraising event, generating over SGD $375 to go towards the school.

Arts and crafts are a big thing at the Yayasan Widya Guna and every afternoon there is an art class for the kids. They love drawing, making bracelets and painting, and I found that it really helps them to focus. A selection of the finished crafts are then sold in the school shop, and 100% goes back to the child who created them so it’s a brilliant initiative.


What did I learn during my time there? So much! Handling all the mess is overwhelming to start with until you start thinking ‘’Is it washable? Yes? Solved’’. By the end of the day you realise that this is the easiest part. The emotional side of it is the real challenge. Also, dealing with a non-verbal child is difficult, until you figure out that you don’t really need to use words to communicate. It definitely puts everything in perspective. How to simplify things that we tend to complicate. How to really enjoy the simple things in life. How lucky we are and how easily we forget about that. It taught me that needing help is not a weakness, you do need help more than you think, and you also need to help other people more than you do. You don’t know everything and it’s okay, and you can do wherever you want if you believe in it, in you and in the people helping you. Because most boundaries are psychologic. It taught me that special needs are only “special” because they see beyond us. We “non special people” can often forget to see things as they are. Balinese culture is so unique and captivating that it definitely made this experience a lot more magical for me.

Will I do it again? Somewhere else maybe… but I can’t wait to see all my kids again!




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