Visitor report: Trudi Kirchhofer

In May 2016, I went to Bali for what was my fifth trip and I can honestly say it is the one that has had the biggest impact on me in so many ways. This is due to meeting Geoff and Erma Collins, their beautiful daughters and the rest of the Akademi Kristus (AK) family.

It was by chance that I reconnected with Jamie Murray from Renegade MMA in Melbourne and I just happened to see that he had posted a link to the AK newsletter on Facebook. As soon as I saw the words ‘Bali’ and ‘martial arts’ together, I had to read more.

After reading the newsletter and visiting the AK Facebook page and website, I knew this was a place I had to visit and help out in any way that I could. As there are so many places in need in Bali, it’s hard to know which ones are legitimate and which ones aren’t sometimes, but as I knew Jamie from school, I thought I was pretty safe with AK.

After contacting Geoff and organising a visit to AK, the countdown was on and I couldn’t wait. I started collecting donations from my gym, Echuca MMA, so that we could take over some gear and anything else that we could fit in our luggage for them.

The day finally arrived and Geoff came and picked up eight of us, including two toddlers. We headed off to Geoff and Erma’s home for what was an amazing lunch while the younger ones had a swim and got to know their new friends.

After lunch we headed to the kampung (village) to visit the families of some of the kids that attend AK and also the people who participate in the specialist disability education class. Geoff had pre-warned us that it would be a confronting experience, and he was right, but it was also an experience that made me a better person. To see these people that have so little laugh and smile when we visited them was so rewarding. It was another reminder to me that material things don’t make a person happy but having people who love you and care about you unconditionally will always put a smile on your face. Meeting these people and seeing their beautiful smiles is what I think of every time I think I’m having a bad day.

After picking up the kids for the classes it was back to AK for the jiu-jitsu and arts and craft class. There were a lot of laughs to be had by Jess and I in the jiu-jitsu class as we totally sucked at it still. Nevertheless, we had a blast and made for a lot of laughter amongst our fellow students. The night was so enjoyable. Watching Shyhan and Shae helping Erma with the English and craft class was just beautiful, and watching our toddlers join in and make new friends was yet another reminder of how rewarding the simple things can be.

After the boys enjoyed a meal with the local kids, this unfortunately meant that our day at AK was coming to an end, but luckily for Jess and I it was only until Monday as we were coming back to teach some muay thai to the kids.

Thankfully, Monday came around quickly for Jess and I and we got to head back to AK. I’m not sure if Jess and I were just awesome teachers or we just had awesome students but whatever the reason, the kids picked up the kicks, elbows and knees in no time and they seemed to enjoy it, which was what we were aiming for.

Watching the students laughing when they tried to do some of the things we showed them was great. It was a role reversal for Jess and I in the jiu-jitsu class where the students got to laugh at us struggling not only with the moves but the heat in the gi. Unfortunately, when the class was over, that meant it was my last visit to AK for this trip.

As I previously stated, my visits to AK were one of the highlights of this trip not only for me but also for the others who joined me. Geoff, Erma, their girls and everyone else associated with AK – the work you do is truly amazing. The love and work you put into what you do for not only the kids that come to AK but their families, too, is so inspiring to me. The friendship and hospitality you showed us will never be forgotten and we now call you our friends, so thank you.

For me, personally, you have given me hope and reminded me that nothing is impossible. I just need to have a vision and believe that anything is possible, no matter how far-fetched it may seem. The hope and joy you bring to these kids and the smiles you put on their faces is just so beautiful to see and I can’t wait to come back and see you all on my next trip.

On behalf of all of us I would like to say a big thank you for not only everything you did for us, but everything you do for all the extended families involved with AK. You guys are truly amazing and I feel so honoured to have had the opportunity to spend some time with you all.

This article was authored by Trudi Kirchhofer after her visit to Akademi Kristus.