Bali has been silent. Not because of Nyepi, the Balinese “Day of Silence.”
The popular tourist island and home to one of Indonesia’s myriad rich cultures is recuperating from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The island depends heavily on the hospitality and tourism industry. Yet, the pandemic has closed international and domestic borders, restricting any travellers who’d want to visit. It’s been tough for the islanders, especially the local Balinese people. Some people might have stores of food at home, meanwhile, other people don’t have any food and are struggling to feed themselves each day.
Indah Kalalo is one of the many residents in Bali who’s experiencing the devastating impact the pandemic has brought to her family and community. Her luxury women’s wear store “Je Suis Flirt” in Seminyak has closed down. Indah is still grateful to have a healthy family, a roof over her head, and food to serve three times a day.
“I don’t think of the world as going through a downhill. Maybe it is, but I see it from another perspective; I see it as a way for us to give, after all this time we’ve been taking,” Indah expressed. “Normally, we take the beauty of the island and the health of Bali’s beautiful people.
Now they’re in need because tourism has stopped so it’s the time for us to give back to the island.”
Rising to fame as an Indonesian model and actress, Indah Kalalo decided to pack her bags and move to Bali with her Australian husband. Together, they’ve welcomed three children to the world. Indah has been blessed with the glamour brought by the entertainment industry, but she remains humble and grateful despite the situation she faces. Take this pandemic for instance.
Eager to help her community, Indah and fellow founder and neighbour, Fitri Supardi, bought 50 packets of nasi bungkus, a wrapped rice meal, for Rp750,000 at the beginning of Ramadan. Soon, they realised they could make more meals in their kitchen for a cheaper price. “It doesn’t mean that I have to feed the whole country all at once, although there are tons of people in need. I can’t help the whole island of Bali but I can help those around me – my neighbours,” explained Indah.
Indah and Fitri then spontaneously put together Nasi Bungkus Tetangga Bali, or wrapped rice meals for neighbours. With a simple concept of cooking various menus, wrapping them – hence, the nasi bungkus – and distributing them to their nearest neighbours in need, they started by making and distributing 50 meals per day just seven weeks ago. As of June 10, they’ve managed to get that number up to an impressive 925 meals on any one day.
“More and more people are helping now. Donations are made in the form of money, time, basic food necessities known as sembako, and face masks. Some of them are also public figures like Jennifer Bachdim and her husband Irfan Bachdim, and Raline Shah who’s stuck in Bali,” Indah said.
Indah explained that Fitri’s house, Umah Kaylo on Jalan Banjar Bandang No.36B in Kerobokan, became the movement’s basecamp. Indah, Fitri, and a fellow volunteer named Christine have opened their kitchens to cook up the dishes alongside receiving ready-made dishes from restaurants or from people who’ve decided to cook in bulk and are keen to donate. A minimum of 200 nasi bungkus are made at each kitchen, leading up to 600 in total with the menu of a vegetable, fried noodles or fried vermicelli noodles (mie goreng or bihun goreng), and the chosen protein of the day, being chicken, fish, or beef – all of the needed nutrients in a meal.
Distribution days used to be every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but after Idul Fitr, some of the volunteers have had to return to work. “We now give away the free nasi bungkus in front of Fitri’s house every Wednesday and Friday at around 4–6pm local Bali time,” she said.
Denpasar and Bali’s outlying villages in Karangasem and beyond the northern area of the island are struggling. This movement is working together to give out 300 meals to Solidaritas Pangan Bali and 200 meals to 20 Ribu Untuk 2020 – organisations which help to distribute on a larger scale. Nonetheless, Indah and the team make personal stops too. “Last week, we went to Serangan where there are 55 families with more than 200 people living in tents for the past three years. We went to give them basic food necessities and meals because they’ve lost opportunities since the pandemic hit,” Indah said. Therefore, Serangan is one of the areas of focus to receive meals every week.
“I started with those close to me like my family who are in Bali, Jakarta, and Manado. After I’m done helping my family, I can help those around me,” she said. “I get to see the faces of these people receiving the help we could offer with such warm smiles and gratitude. The people in Serangan were so grateful when we came with basic food necessities and meals. They said that they were so happy other people are indeed thinking about them,” she continued.
The desire to feed the whole island may get tricky; where to start? But Indah was adamant to start small with the hope that her social media presence would inspire other people in their communities. And it worked! A lot of people have shared with Indah about their efforts to help their communities in Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bandung.
“Small gestures can give a greater impact on somebody. We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone,” Indah said.
Nasi Bungkus Tetangga Bali will not last for too long, unfortunately. “People are donating which makes me feel responsible and trusted to help the less fortunate. It’s a big responsibility but I’m not sure if I can continue this since people are starting to get back to work and life in Bali is slowly reviving,” she explained. She’s decided to make the end of June the closing point to receive donations. The rest of the money will be donated to housing complexes in need as well as distributing more necessities.
“For other celebrities, influencers, or people who have a strong social media presence, we are fortunate enough to have a platform so let’s project kindness and aid others by making our efforts viral to inspire more people helping the less fortunate,” Indah concluded.
Donations can be made to: