I am Australian mother building an inclusive disability community project for my 19 year old daughter and other children with special needs in Bali. I am passionate about natural building and design, experimentation, raising awareness and sharing skills that can make building bamboo homes sustainable, affordable and accessible.
I have been learning about bamboo craft and construction for the last four years through this building project – a bamboo house in the urban jungle of Denpasar – for my daughter to be enabled to have more inclusion and connection with community and creative souls, and empower our local community.
background is in Environmental Studies (Social Science) and Agroforestry (James Cook University Cairns Undergrad).
My focus now is practical ways to create inclusive learning and meaningful social interaction for my daughter. Basically my aim now is to provide a community space for young people and adults with disabilities to be and feel included in community life and activities; to ease the care burden for parents of special needs children through enabling them to access a post-school program of inclusive activities; and, to help build our space into one of learning and sharing, music and dance, brain-gym therapies, small-scale mixed crop farming, and sharing time, food and humour.
My passion is to help share sustainability skills and healing pass-times such as crafting with bamboo, weaving and other right-brain activities; and at a local level maintain traditions and promote the value of bamboo as a sustainable building material/resource and enable it’s revival and enhancement in developing countries. I intend to do this through facilitating cooperative relationships between westerners and local families which are mutually beneficial.
Originally from Australia, my daughter Freyr and I have been living outside Australia since the start of 2016… in the Philippines (Palawan) we stayed with several families for nearly a year who helped 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 alone and the sense of isolation we experienced, as she got older, living in Australia. I remain so grateful to the families in Philippines who helped me when I couldn’t get the support I needed for my daughter in Australia. 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.
Living in Palawan, I witnessed local living conditions and this sparked my interest in bamboo; and why it wasn’t being used more/barriers to bamboo becoming a sustainable building material there. I progressed to bamboo after realising that living INSIDE Earthships may not be so desirable in tropical environments (due to insufficient ventilation and high humidity) and had started this design (back in 2013/14) with the intention of having an Earthship base and then a bamboo structure (main living space) above which could be evacuated in the case of a cyclone… However I couldn’t quite convince the locals here on the car tyres … So decided to just focus on Bamboo in Bali (where the most skilful bamboo builders and craftsmen are located) to learn Everything I can about this material and to keep sharing along this journey.
It’s crazy, local people don’t VALUE these skills – and 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 seem quite dangerous and all with those CoalSeamGas 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, brings me out of “isolation”… welcomed into a Real family actually (in my opinion). Perhaps like the Irish don’t like potatoes; Filipinos don’t like bananas… you don’t know what you got til it’s gone kinda thing… But 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)… There was nothing I “needed” to achieve but there was work to be done. I could take a swim in peace and close my eyes for a few minutes and feel the sunshine through my eyelids and forehead activating I don’t know what chemical or hormone centre inside my brain but gee it feels good when I can close my eyes and switch off for long enough to recharge my brain like that.
I came to Bali initially to learn about bamboo preservation after finding that, when helping one family to build a small homestay house in Salacot, termites were a huge issue and wreakers of mass destruction without heavy chemical treatment which I avidly wanted to avoid. 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). So I came to Bali expecting that the Green School was somewhere teaching this kind of stuff to people. It wasn’t at that time… but I toured the Green School buildings and visited the factory… none of which was really relevant to what I needed to learn. But I started cottoning on to local knowledge, helped build a Lumbung from bamboo (the basis for this design) and had some time to focus on myself and put my hand to something. I later returned and started this bamboo project with local craftsmen. Freyr attends a beautiful school here with other local children with special needs and has a program I could have only dreamed about in Australia. I guess you could say that I’m primarily here for Freyr… but I have also had this amazing opportunity to learn about and experience building with bamboo.
Now I see bamboo as a Therapy for me actually. It’s a way for me to be present, focused and enables me to share time and conversation with others. Also like the community-farming experience my daughter and my friends and I had with our local Bhutanese refugees in Cairns…. Westernised cultures have really lost this “space” and “tranquility” that comes (I believe) with working together in Community (for the common good – not ourselves so much)… when we were simple “peasants” collecting hay, sything the field etc etc… we had very little mental health problems. I think it’s just we’re too much about “ourselves” and in our own “heads”. When I start experiencing anxiety now, I alert myself to it and just gently step back, go downstairs, find my tools or just stare at things and feel my Cobb oven. Get focused into feeling things and breathing gently to slow down my sympathetic nervous system. Switch off the adrenalin and activate the parasympathetic… Within 15 minutes of throwing some bamboo on the floor and experimenting with a weaving pattern… I suddenly noticed that my anxiety had disappeared.
I am Australian mother building an inclusive disability community project for my 18 year old daughter and other children with special needs in Bali. 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. I have been learning about bamboo craft and construction for the last three years through a construction project based in Bali and am working to establish a not-for-profit trading co-opertaive for people with special needs compatible with my daughter’s and their families who may want to visit/spend time in Bali and be part of a supported lifestyle and activity program.
I am creating an Eco-activity Community Centre inclusive of special needs and facilitate eco-product and craft-making, and eco-building using recycled/reclaimed trash, bamboo and earth-building techniques. The overall aim of this project is to provide a community space for young people and adults with disabilities to be and feel included in community life and activities; My passion is to help share skills and knowledge of how we can live more sustainably, alongside practical experience learning bamboo carpentry and construction: Weaving, craft skills and other right-brain activities, healing modalities; and at a local level maintain traditions and promote the value of bamboo as a sustainable building material/resource and enable it’s revival and enhancement in developing countries.
Prior to living here in Bali, we stayed in the Philippines with local families for about 8 months. Being in a family environment eased the care burden for me and helped me through a very challenging time when I was experiencing Overwhelm regularly and was at the point of “Carer Breakdown” (what spurred me to leave Australia). In Philippines, my daughter Freyr was able to be part of a FAMILY, and I was able to freed my focus and attention from my daughter which enabled my mental health to recover.
Thanks to the kindness and generosity of these families in sharing their lives with us, we experienced inclusion and quality of life that was not possible for us living in Australia. I was able to regain my balance, well-being, restore my mental health and keep my daughter in my care. Freyr was welcomed, adored and surrounded by kids who enjoyed playing clapping games, singing and parading around with her. She definatley fitted in with her new tribe which brought her friends and activites that I as a parent had been unable to keep up with… I can really see why they say “It takes a village to raise a child”… certainly it takes a village-community to raise a special needs child.
During our time staying with these families I was led on a journey into local life and living conditions, family values and to marvel at how people co-operate and work together. With the support I received, I was able to turn my attention and participate in construction and to learn about local building: help finance and build and some small family projects to help the families earn their own income through small livelihood projects: A fish-farm pond in the mangroves, a partial bamboo studio/office room and a bamboo homestay cottage were the main projects i worked on with these families. I soon learned about termites and powder beetles and this is what brought me to Bali originally (to learn about preservation treatment for bamboo). The local advice in Philippines was to use toxic chemicals but I knew there must be a more natural way… the question was whether it would be affordable and accessible for people (in developing countries)… where the pay rate is around a tenth of ours.
When I came to Bali to investigate natural treatment for bamboo, I met Djuka Montenero (Farmers Yard Hostel founder) through helpX and became fascinated with Indoneisan bamboo architecture and building techniques. I realised that Bali was the place to learn about bamboo and we were getting closer to accessing funding through NDIS for Freyr and so we relocated to Bali in late 2016.
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… See our FRIENDS OF FREYR page for more info about this project and current opportunities to join our Family Homestay in Bali.
I endeavor 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 see my responsibility to enable other families to also enjoy a more co-operative way of life – that restores and enhances the local culture also.
Feel free to get in touch with me here…
Creative Bamboo Summer Camp Program is starting next week 14 June running Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays… enrollments are open until tomorrow evening so act fast to book in at a great price!! The schedule: Week 1 – Bamboo Weaving – Monday: Bamboo Mandala/Dreamcatcher. Tuesday: Keranjang Basket. Wednesday: Bedeg wall pieces Week 2 – Bamboo Kitchen […]
Join our workshop with Jiwa 17-22 May – We will be constructing a community classroom at Jiwa Garden from May 17th for a 6 Day Workshop including theory and hands-on sessions. 8:30AM – 4PM incl. breakfast and lunch; covering bamboo treatment, tools & safety, model-making and carpentry, truss construction, layout, scaffold and framing, mentoring with Balinese carpenters and led by Dodon Dimyati – bambo expert from Java. Daily drop in rate or sign up for the full workshop to receive 20% OFF.
Register Here for more info:
We will be commencing our bamboo construction course on Wednesday March 24 2021 with 8 sessions running weekly on a Wednesday starting 11am to 3pm with an in-depth learning syllabus about bamboo from maintaining, harvesting and treatment, foundations, model-making, carpentry, construction techniques, and post-construction maintenance. This course is to take us through each stage of […]
Since 2 years my experimental tetrapack roof for the bamboo fence has been doing it tough in the sun… and still seems in good shape/condition. And now I have my super team workshop kids ‘bambu tukan’ to help make a tetrapack playhouse roof! It’s a super-simple process to recycle/upcycle tetrapack and it’s nearly impossible to […]
Support our possible campaign and receive pre-launch rewards for our Experiential and Creative programs… Announcing the next era for Bamboo Creative… getting out in to the world and collaborating with our partners in Bali and Africa on our upcoming adventures !
Today in our bamboo workshop we made the frame for a model house (found the design on the internet) and everyone learned about how to split bamboo to make strips of different sizes, sketched our model and applied some pythagoras’ theorem to calculate some of the lengths we needed to cut. We took a tour […]