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Chaparral 2013-2014: 22.4 It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village (March 2014)

It Takes a Village... and a Community College

by Darren Leaver

What happens when a few Glendale Community College (GCC) instructors want to honor the legacy of a deeply caring GCC student inspired by a terrific GCC study abroad program in Bali? You get the creation of a new international non-profit: Robin Carlson Children's Language Program (, which provides free English-language instruction for children in rural Balinese villages. The program was inspired by Robin Carlson, a Glendale Community College student who first visited Bali during the college’s study abroad program in 2000. Robin fell under Bali’s magical spell, and soon after her trip, she created a business designing, manufacturing and importing Balinese clothing with a focus on giving back to the community.

Robin remained in contact with her study abroad instructors, who were shocked and saddened to learn that she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2005. The disease did not stop Robin from continuing to help make the world a better place. In the latter stages of her illness, Robin worked with members of the GCC Social Sciences Division to conceptualize a program of free language instruction for children in rural Balinese villages. Darren Leaver and Laura Englund-Krusee of the GCC Geography Department worked with local leaders in two Balinese villages in late 2010 to bring Robin’s dream to life.

The idea of free English language lessons was an instant hit in the villages, and children were lined up early in the morning for the grand opening on December 20, 2010. The news of the school’s opening put an enormous smile on Robin’s face, but sadly she did not live to see the school program herself; Robin passed away on January 2, 2011.

Robin’s caring and courage became an inspiration for even more GCC instructors to keep the program moving forward.

Students learning English in Bali

 With the help of Cameron Hastings, Larry McLaughlin and Kit Crawford of the Social Sciences Division, the program steadily grew so that today it provides free English language lessons to over 450 rural Balinese children. Twenty-four GCC students visited the language program this year as part of the college’s 2013 study abroad program. The GCC students spent a day helping the Balinese children learn to write and speak English, and it proved to be a rewarding time for all with a lots of hugs and a few tears shed at the end of the day. I think Robin was smiling from above that day.

With volunteer assistance from accountant Brad Ormsby of Westlake Village, CA we formed a California non-profit corporation named Agung Bali Children’s Foundation ( with the main mission of funding the language program in Bali. Since we are all employed college instructors we take no salary for the work performed for the non-profit, so all donations go to work directly in the Balinese classrooms. Great news arrived in the mail last month, as we just received approval as a federal 501(c)3 non-profit! With increased donations our goal is to expand the program into more Balinese villages, as the need is so great throughout the island.

Yes, it takes a village, a student, a dream, and a handful of caring instructors, and the world can indeed become a much better place. Oh, yes, a big-hearted accountant is a real plus!

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