Just over two months ago, I received a text message from a Balinese man – Komang – whom I’ve known for nearly as long as I’ve lived on the island. Komang, in his early 40s, with a wife and young children, wrote that he’s suffering from diabetes and a kidney problem. Shortly after, he wrote again, telling me that he can’t afford the medicine, that he needs help and that he may die if he doesn’t get treatment. I sent out an alert to a group of mutual friends, urging them to pitch in as they could.
I also asked Komang if his family and community could help. But, as soon as I pressed ‘send,’ I recognized my error: Komang lives in one of the original and still-traditional villages of East Bali, an insular community that relies almost entirely on revenues from tourism – the very industry that has been virtually decimated in the past year. I still cannot figure out how this village is now sustaining itself.
Komang’s is just one story among a multitude. The lives, livelihoods and hopes of millions of locals across the island have been crushed. Entire families have fallen prey to malnutrition and hunger; have been forced to move into smaller and more squalid quarters; have seen their loved ones die from starvation and untreated illnesses.
Komang’s story is only one of dozens that I’ve heard over the past year. From the mouths of Balinese drivers, massage therapists, helpers and tourist guides I’ve known over the years, I’ve learned that their struggles mount every day, along their dwindling hopes. Their incomes have been slashed, their savings depleted, and their social networks put on hold.
Fortunately, there are those who have managed to pivot; some have started up small businesses – delivery services, small-scale coffee production, fruit or vegetable sellers, fish vendors.
Some have left the tourist hubs of Seminyak, Kuta, Canggu, Ubud and elsewhere, and returned to their families spread out in remote regions of the island.
As a witness to the year-long devastation that has been wrought on this island, I felt both helpless yet driven to do *something.* And so, because I love to walk long distances, and felt so disheartened by the cancellation of my walking retreat last spring, I concocted a cockamamie idea: A 10-day, coast-to-coast walking expedition across Bali to raise funds for five of the most prominent local NGOs (yayasans), who’ve been at the forefront of COVID-19 relief efforts. Which is how BaliCore (2021) was born a few short months ago – and is set to launch, on April 2, 2021.
After some arm-twisting, cajoling and straight-out inviting, I pulled together a small team to help organize this expedition. Fortuitously, a Jakarta-based business with expertise in community-based trail development, came on board early; and at this point is close to completing the entire route… of nearly 200 kilometers. There is still much to do before we embark on this endeavour, but as we inch towards the Good Friday start date, the enthusiasm and excitement builds..
I invite you to read more about BaliCore’s mission, participating partners, NGOs, route and other details. Here, here and here. If you’ve visited Bali, or have it pinned to your vision board, please consider making a contribution (of ANY size!) to our GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. If you know of a company that could sponsor part of our expedition, please contact me here.
We’re hoping to make a BIG difference in the lives of the local population.. for people like Komang and his community. Let’s help Bali survive.. and (eventually) thrive again.