I am Natalie and Freyr is my daughter, an amazingly active and talented 20 year old woman with Rubenstein-Taybi Syndrome which is like a mix of Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Freyr loves music, swimming, bouncing and making lots of noise! We came to Bali after having lived in the Philippines with local families who helped me to look after my daughter Freyr at a time when I had reached Carer Burnout and could no longer look after Freyr alone. I have created this project in Bali for Freyr to be able to continue having meaningful social connection and so that I can further my knowledge and experience in natural sustainable building and work towards an inclusive community design for people with special needs to be able to participate in daily life and be safe and cared for in “natural community” and to offer support to others – to hopefully reduce the sense of isolation that Carers/ Parents of Disabled “kids” experience in daily life of most “western societies”. . . And having struggled with the Disability system in Australia myself, after retuning there in 2017, and after being told that the Vision I have for Freyr and myself to live in inclusive community “Doesn’t Exist”, I thought better I make it myself here in Bali where I have experienced the same caring sentiment and culture as in the Philippines – from which this Vision has developed.

Living in a family environment in the Philippines was perfect for Freyr to have social connection and be naturally included in day-to-day life while I was able to recover my nervous system and found a way to contribute to “community life” – and this is where I started to learn about bamboo. While helping the families whom we stayed with to make small livelihood projects (a aquaculture pond repair, a spare room/office and a bamboo “kubu”, I saw directly what happens to bamboo if it is not treated. I initially came to Bali to learn about non-toxic natural treatment methods for bamboo and ended up making a home here for Freyr. Kubu is a local term in Philippines and Indonesia for a small hut/dwelling (usually made from bamboo & natural materials) so we have adopted the term Sky-Kubu… as our building is 13 metres tall…

I am passionate about natural building and design, experimentation, raising awareness and sharing skills that can make building bamboo homes sustainable, affordable and accessible – especially for People LIVING IN “developing countries” who make up around 70% of the global population of our planet. Over the last 5 years I have been blessed to meet many people – local craftsmen, artists and travellers with various expertise from parkour, yoga, dance and rock-climbing to architecture and marketing… My daughter has experienced an enriched social stimulation and meaningful connections while I have had the support of having her care needs met by local care “staff” who are like family to us which has enabled me to work and learn hands-on and learn bamboo skills and have connection with other people outside my caring role. I have been able to learn about bamboo-building through this construction project and am creating an Eco-activity Community Centre model – inclusive of special needs and facilitating carpentry, craft-making, eco-building and product design using recycled/reclaimed trash, bamboo and earth-building techniques.

My aim is to build an inclusive disability community project for my (now) 20 year old daughter and other “kids” with special needs in Bali. I want to enable young people and adults with disabilities to be and feel included in community life and activities; and to ease the care burden for parents of special needs children through enabling them to access inclusive activities by building spaces of learning and sharing music, dance, physical therapies, farming activities, time, food and humour, sustainability skills and healing pass-times such as crafting with bamboo, weaving and other right-brain activities.

The Vision I have for Bamboo Creative Bali is to create a model for living in supportive community which includes people with disabilities in daily life and enables us to share our gifts as people/humans and contribute to a collective aims / The Common Good. And to see/develop a social-housing model that will give my daughter a better quality of life experience, social connection and care than what is presently available in Australia; and for myself, to evolve a way to work alongside my role as my daughter’s Carer and to contribute and feel connected with others. Through this model I have expanded my own skills and knowledge and am now able to create a livelihood for myself from the learning I’ve had living here in Indonesia I and look forward to now having time to develop my vision further in my own “work” in facilitating workshops in bamboo and natural /upcycled building techniques and having effective contribution towards enabling people (in general) to lead more sustainable lives.

Bamboo Creative Bali has three aims: To make bamboo an attractive and affordable building material for everyday people in developing countries to use, and to retain the culture and skills of bamboo which still remain – not only in Indonesia but around the world … seeing bamboo as a “friend” to people and able to be collectively used to better society and the environment; To educate and inspire people to repurpose plastics and prevent plastic waste from entering our environment, nurture innovative thinking and value-add to natural community resources and contribute to the creation of circular economies; and to be a vehicle for which as humans we may experience our true nature and be IN Community and reconnect with our creativity. We are committed to including people with special needs disabilities in our activities and creating meaningful roles which give quality and purpose in life.

Bamboo Creative Bali offers individual/customised bamboo building, recycled-design and natural/earth building programs where participants are enabled to be part of the design experience and process of each project. As well, we offer design and mentorship programs for locally-produced bamboo products through partnerships with local families directly; where there are mutual fair benefits. My aim is to enable more local families to build their own “homestay” through collaborative programs – using renewable/recycled materials and traditional bamboo knowledge. Bamboo Creative Bali isn’t just about building, we are also looking at systems (specifically for the tropics) that can help reduce waste; lessen the need for power consumption (by simplifying and locafying our lifestyles); design and sustainable resource use and economics (you wouldn’t even dream of having a horrible closed-in stinky room with an air conditioner when you work out the math)… greywater gardening systems, energy from human waste and reduction of plastic throw-away consumables to approach a zero waste economy and community.

Prior to living here in Bali my daughter and I lived in the Philippines (Palawan) where we stayed with several families for nearly a year who helped me to take care of Freyr and gave me the support I needed when I had reached my own breaking point in being able to look after her. I overcame the sense of isolation I had experienced living in Australia as she got older and Freyr was able to be part of a FAMILY. I was able to restore my nervous system which had become so overwhelmed that i experienced frequent shaking, inability to sleep and emotional instability. Having support with Freyr’s care meant I could free my focus and attention and made some small projects to contribute to the livelihoods of the families we stayed with which is where I started seeing and learning about bamboo through helping make/repair a mangrove aquaculture pond, build a small office/spare room and build a bamboo “kubu” in the jungle near Napsan.

I came to Bali initially to learn about bamboo preservation after finding that, when helping one family to build a small homestay house in Palawan (Salacot area), termites were a huge issue and wreakers of mass destruction without heavy chemical treatment, turned to dust pretty darn quick. Also bringing water to homes from nearby water sources to save time and energy manually carrying water was an issue (no electricity in this area). I met Djuka Montenero (Farmers Yard Hostel founder) through HelpX and became fascinated with Indoneisan bamboo building techniques. I realised that Bali was the place to learn about bamboo and helped Djuka build a Lumbung (traditional rice barn) from bamboo which became the basis for my sky-kubu design. I started this bamboo project with local craftsmen and volunteers and have learned everything hands-on… through local knowledge…

I hope to return to Palawan again and stay with the families in the beautiful and relatively unspoilt area of the hillsides behind Napsan (probably now like Bali was 30 years or so ago) and bring what I have learned and support their ability to access sustainable renewable technologies which can help improve living standards/ ease/access to things we take for granted in the western world – like running water and light at night and also help them to utilise bamboo as a building material that lasts and is attractive and affordable.

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I believe that maintaining skills and traditions at the local level and promoting the value of bamboo as a sustainable building material/resource will enable it’s revival and help enhance the lives of people in ‘developing’ countries. My aim is to facilitate cooperative relationships between ‘westerners’ and local families which are mutually beneficial to help share skills and knowledge of how we can live more sustainably, alongside the practical experience of learning bamboo carpentry and construction so that people with special needs and their families can visit/spend time in Bali and be part of a supported lifestyle and activity program.

It’s not the skills themselves… it’s the Environment we create practicing them… maybe not quite like a knitting circle (I don’t know I’ve never been to one… but those crocheting circles in Australia seem quite dangerous and all with those CoalSeamGas nannies and girls going around the city crocheting trees and pushbikes). But it’s this “Being” state, and Being together (drug-addicted rats prefer to be with other rats than take heroin) which nourishes me… It takes more than a village to raise a special needs child… maybe a multi-layered international village will do the job… It’s this state of Beingness … Connectedness … just sitting around/working with other families and kids around (familyful – my new word for the day)… that creates the environment which creates the nourishment my soul needs!

I have been incredibly inspired since first coming to Asia at how inclusive the culture is towards people with special needs, and by the presence of Foundations/Yayasans here in Bali whose charter it is to help children with disabilities. I have actually felt human and connected in a way I had never experienced in Australia. We naturally slotted in to a more co-operative mindset and sense of shared responsibility… I feel so blessed to be able to experience life in a more “meaningful” way and to be able to contribute in some way and help others. This is what led me to have a vision to create a wholistic village where “sustainable” activities are just part of daily life and form part of a living program where our “kids” get to join in and participate together with paid staff/carers and the broader local community as well as travellers and visitors who wish to participate in being of service to the Greater Good and are interested in sharing their time and skills with us…

I established my Indonesian PMA (international trading company) PT Bamboo Creative Bali, in January (2021) to enable the development of what I want to make available in the world of earth-friendly life skills, bamboo-building and plastic management/reuse. I believe that incorporating bamboo-building and skill-sharing with a kind of local tourism will help local families to be empowered to use bamboo as a building material in their own houses and help to broaden the reach and sharing of skills and knowledge around Environmental Awareness and to also be a PROACTIVE measure in creating solutions that everyone can be part of – in a fun and recreational way – while creating and broadening our concept of community and what it is to be part of a/the Global Village.

What spurred me to create this project was my own need to feel part of an inclusive community where I can live in a collaborative family environment and Thrive; have a sense of purpose, and contribute to a community which is committed to seeing a better world for our children.

As westerners, we need to acknowledge that it is the capitalist system and economy/currency-framing that has created poverty in most-all post colonized nations on the planet. It is not acceptable to assume that we are doing “poor people” a favor by paying them basically nothing to “produce goods/labour” for the “west”. You only have to take a peek behind the curtains of Capitalism to see that it is “our” very presence that continues to create poverty (through the current imposition of currency exchange rates and devaluing of local currencies) as well as the “regulations” and layers of post-colonial laws which make it practically impossible for anyone in a “third-world” country to have any kind of “equality” or “living standard” that we, as westerners, take for granted pretty much.

Through all our cultures’ greed and plundering of these nations, we have to stop and realize that the future and well-being of our planet has more to do with how sustainable “they” Are, or Will Be – in the next 20-30 years. “They”, who make up more than 70% of the world’s population, compared with our own relatively tiny proportion of the world population. Even though we’ve swallowed up most of the resources and continue to tread a much bigger carbon footprint than most people in developing countries, the fact of the matter is that they now are striving to live like us! (Side-fact: Already proven to be non-sustainable)… So if we don’t address this issue NOW and ensure tha post-colonized nation people can access quality of life in their own lands and villages and WITHOUT moving to cities and becoming “part of the problem” … as a friend in the Philippines said: “We’re just re-arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic”.

Most people in post-colonised countries who have been disposessed Of their tradisional heritage lands live in poverty, dependent on low-paid jobs (compared to wage rates in the west). We need to create a social-business model which enables people to reunite with land and work in partnership with companies dedicated to uplifting the rural poor through Bamboo Development and who give a fair share of income back to the people, while enabling and encouraging entrepreneurs to develop small businesses from the myriad by-products of bamboo and seeing Bamboo Culture flourish through these unique forms, and balancing work with life and culture. Historical violence and bullying from authorities still scars the social landscape and psychology of many people… but I believe there are ways forward which can embrace our individual cultural identities and value people’s time, and respect nature, tradition and diversity, while having an awesome productive business in the “big business” realm .

I endeavour to become part of the network of social enterprises which are developing globally and help form connections in ways where we may return to our familiar/tribal roots as humankind and plant the seeds of Caring Custodianship; pulling the weeds of Capitalism out of our lives as we go… To rethink How we think... about ourselves and everything around us. Through experiencing BEING in Com-munity and engaging in activities which bring us into Communion/ Communication with ourselves and each other… To be able to Feel and just be Present for our Kids with special needs – and enjoy them!… To unravel our minds… to open our Hearts to what has been there all along. I want to enable other families to also enjoy a more co-operative way of life – that restores and enhances this local culture also.

This project has been entirely self-funded so far. It has been a means for me to develop my own skills and knowledge and fulfil my human potential outside of my caring role while finding avenues to help my daughter be part of an awesome inclusive community and contribute to quality care and facilities for special needs “Kids” here in Bali. In the long term I aim to connect this project more widely enabling mutual benefits to communities empowered to participate in connecting our global family together through being present and inspired as part of a natural community environment and setting for our kids and living our purpose in giving to the Greater Good and forming a caring network of people and “human-enabling’ / “humaning” experiences.

We would love your help to continue our progress on our bamboo house project!!! Help us to complete the building of Freyr’s Bamboo Sky-Kubu and adding accessibility options such as a water-powered elevator, driveway surfacing, car canopy, furnishings and finishing, sealing and cleaning/maintenance on the bamboo, roof repairs (birds just love making nests in our grass roof), car repairs and vehicle registrations, bathroom refurbishing. As well as expand our staff training and placement to enable more special needs families to come and stay with us and join in our programs.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to co-creating something great with you! Please send me a message and introduce yourself – I’d love to connect with you!!

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