26 January 2018
BALI CHILDREN FOUNDATION’S MARGARET BARRY AWARDED ORDER OF AUSTRALIA MEDAL
Yarram-born philanthropist Margaret Barry was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to education in Melbourne on 26 January, 2018.
Margaret, who has lived in Bali, Indonesia, for over 27 years, is the founder of Yayasan Samiarsa Seminyak (Bali Children Foundation), a not-for-profit organization which brings educational opportunities to disadvantaged children across Bali. While developing the foundation, Margaret owned and operated her own fashion and lifestyle brand MAGG Bali. She closed the business in 2017, however, to focus solely on philanthropic work.
“I decided after 42 years making frocks, I’d done about as much as I was going to do in that space,” she says. “I really wanted to do something that would make a significant difference to people’s lives. I enjoyed the creativity of being in the fashion industry, but it is way more exciting to create sustainable change in communities and see young graduates move into their adult lives. After 15 years of balancing fashion and philanthropy, it was time to decide.”
It was the 2002 Bali bombings that pushed Margaret into action. “I believed that terror was created by economic disadvantage and by people having no options,” she says, “by giving them options I believe that we can fight terror in Bali and prevent it getting any foothold, but the only way I could see that being successful would be providing education to the disadvantaged children in Bali’s remote areas.”
She worked with children’s homes in North and West Bali for the first three years, and concluded that a more sustainable aid model was well overdue. “Through children’s homes, we could only impact a limited number of students, and there were so many villages where the children were just as poor, if not more poor, than the ones in the children’s homes.”
In 2005, Margaret, Bali Children Foundation chairman, Agung Sutama and founding Board member Mike Dolbey, launched their first community-based project in Corot, North Bali, supporting a total of 40 students. The exercise was a huge success. “Over the next ten years we kept expanding from one village to another, and we now reach over 3700 students in 53 communities,” Margaret says.
Her work is backed by directors of the Australian-based charity Bali Children Foundation Limited, The Australian Government and generous donations from around the world. Going forward, Margaret hopes to complete the work on Bali and create a future proofing plan for the foundation. “Most likely, once Bali is done, we will move into the Eastern Indonesian areas where there is enormous disadvantage,” she says.
For now, meanwhile, her work remains planted on Balinese soil. “There are still a heap of kids on Bali who need to be helped. The region around the Mount Agung volcano will be particularly important once the mountain settles down.”
On how it feels to be honoured with an Order of Australia Medal: “It is very exciting to receive the award, but I have to recognize that a job of this size can never be done by one person. I’ve been backed by superb board members from the early days, committed staff, and hundreds of fantastic supporters.”
About Bali Children Foundation
Bali Children Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that brings educational opportunities to underprivileged children in Bali, Indonesia.
The island’s poverty-stricken villages are well-hidden from the tourist traps and many visitors are unaware of the hardships they face. Through education, Bali Children Foundation strives to improve their quality of life one young person at a time.
The foundation works with students, families, schools and communities to identify the children that need financial help, support them through school, maintain strong grades, and help them secure good jobs.
“Students who finish year 12 and get well-paid jobs, earn incomes that are four to eight times greater than their family income combined,” says founder Margaret Barry. “As we get whole villages graduating through year 12 and picking up job opportunities, the children’s families benefit from that and the whole community becomes improved as a result of this better economic situation.
“It takes about 10 years,” she says, “to develop sustainable change.”
Margaret leads the team, which is supported by BCF Bali chairman Mike Dolbey, Yayasan Samiarsa Seminyak ketua (chairman), Agung Sutama, SH, and the board of the Australian charity, Bali Children Foundation Limited which is headed by Paul Wheelton, AM KSJ.
Over 1100 of BCF’s students are individually supported through personal benefactors. A scholarship contributes to school fees, school uniforms, shoes and socks, books, a school bag, stationery and hygiene kits – all the basic needs to support a child through their education. Scholarship providers play a mentoring role in the student’s lives through visits, encouragement and praise.
Bali Children Foundation brings English, computer and reading classes to remote schools in North, East, West and Central Bali. The educational modules are created and delivered by a team of qualified teachers. Classrooms are provided by the Indonesian Government, then suitably set-up by BCF. Over 3700 students are currently enrolled in these programs, which provide the skillsets needed for Bali’s growing economy.
Health and disability
Any work outside of the educational field is outsourced to BCF’s charity partners – Bali Kids, Kolewa and Stepping Stones Bali, among them. With the help of these organisations, BCF-supported communities receive health and dental checks and children with disabilities are given the care they need to be able to attend school.
Bali Children Foundation’s support extends into life after school. Graduates are mentored through the Work Ready program, which prepares students for the workplace and university. Tertiary students receive mentoring for the duration of their degree. Once employed, BCF steers its graduates through the first year of the job, making sure they are coping. Programs such as Food for Thought, give BCF graduates an opportunity to be trained, mentored and hired by some of Bali’s leading hospitality institutions, such as the Sarong Group and Metis. Through such experiences, students can enrich the lives of their families and communities, alike.
The foundation’s teachers are responsible for the curation of the vocational curriculums, course delivery and student mentoring. The team is thoroughly qualified and guided, ensuring the best possible outcomes for the students. Teacher training occurs regularly at BCF’s North Bali office, with valuable input from educational volunteers from Indonesia and abroad.
One of Bali Children Foundation’s key objectives is to eradicate school drop-outs. On average, 30% of Indonesian students drop out of school before year 12. At BCF, the drop-out average is less than one per cent. This is thanks to regular meetings with the students, their families and their communities to encourage positive attitudes towards education. Without this attention, many children may have given up their opportunity for a brighter future.
Friends of Bali Children Foundation
Bali Children Foundation has many solid relationships with businesses across Bali and Australia. These invaluable connections provide donations, fundraising support, and job opportunities to many BCF students. Over the years, fashion, hospitality and other philanthropic brands, alike, have contributed generously to BCF’s cause.
Female empowerment is an important initiative at BCF and the latest gender statistics are hugely promising. The number of girls outnumbers boys across the project board – most significantly in the graduated tertiary student figures. This is game-changing in Bali’s patriarchal society where until recently, women were greatly disadvantaged in the workforce.
Bali Children Foundation gender statistics
Bali Children Foundation’s latest program overview
More Bali Children Foundation’s reach
Margaret Barry in the media
A Little Hope for the Little Folk, NOW BALI, August 2017 ( nowbali.co.id/bali-
Bali Children Foundation, NOW BALI, October 2016 (nowbali.co.id/bali-
Moving Forward with the Help of Education, Indonesia Expat, Feb 2015,
Network Ten Australia, BSFW Humanitarian,
Australian Independent School Bali,
Food for Thought, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVQuA6Y6mzo&t=14s
Wealth for Social Change, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8JD1I37lSY&t=1122s
Tamarind Asia Media, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW7YeULC9ZY
For interview opportunities with Margaret Barry, or for more information on Bali Children Foundation, please contact Margaret Barry on +61 487 101 073 (Australia), +62 811 396670 (Indonesia), or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.