Hotels with a Heart
Society darling Elaine Kim susses out COMO Hotels and Resorts and MasterCard’s joint philanthropy programme in Bali
The COMO SUV pulls up at a clearing in the village, where a small garden and simple hut stand ringed in by a wire fence. After alighting from the vehicle, we amble towards the open gate, where we catch sight of a young boy who tumbles out across the garden to meet us.
This is Mani, a 5 year old with Down Syndrome, and a sweet endearing smile on his face despite having just lost his father to a motorcyle accident. He takes an immediate liking to my camera, which I place gingerly in his outstretched palms. To my surprise, Mani soon becomes quite the photographer, taking snapshots of the other children, the nervous teachers caught midsentence saying: "Be careful with the camera!", and the bemused members of our entourage.
Mani scanning through the photos he's taken; getting his hands on a DSLR camera
One of the many pictures that Mani snapped
We are at Sari Hati, a free institution in Ubud, Bali for children and young adults with intellectual disabilities. In a culture where bearing a disabled child is viewed as punishment for sins of a past life, the work of Sari Hati is invaluable. It provides a haven for children who have no avenue for attaining an education, as well as support for their families – who face societal persecution for their perceived shortcomings.
Accompanying us on this trip is Paul Linder, general manager of Uma by COMO and Como Shambhala Estate. These are the Bali properties of luxury hotel group COMO, which has been supporting Sari Hati by funding its operations, as well as providing volunteers and nutritional meals for the children.
Spending some time with the children from Sari Hati
Taking a picture with Mani and Paul Linder
A few years back, my husband and I had enrolled in a 3-day wellness programme at COMO Shambhala Estate. Three days replete with yoga sessions, laps in the hydrotherapy pool and walks in the water garden were a welcome deviation from my sedentary lifestyle in Singapore. Coupled with healthy cuisine and ample massages at the spa, we left feeling utterly refreshed.
The private villa at COMO Shambhala Estate boasts a day bed overlooking the pool, where you can spend many an idle afternoon
The lobby at COMO Shambhala Estate
A delicious picnic lunch put together by COMO Shambhala Estate; the resort's restaurant, Glow, offers a range of healthy dishes
On this particular visit to Ubud, I have with me my baby boy, Luke. Besides COMO Shambhala Estate, we also stay at boutique sister property Uma Ubud, a Balinese-themed collection of 46 rooms set amid lush foliage, hills and paddy fields. With its white terrazzo floors, four-poster draped with mosquito netting, and outdoor pool terrace overlooking the valley, our bright and airy pool villa provides a cozy home-away-from-home.
Having breakfast at Kemiri restaurant, Uma Ubud
Luke having a ball of a time in our pool villa
The lobby of the Como Shambhala Spa; guests lounging around the pool at Uma Ubud
Besides its commitment to service, design, wellness and cuisine, a lesser-known aspect of COMO's ethos is its sustainable approach towards the people and places where it operates. People travel for a variety of reasons – to encounter myriad experiences, make new friends, appreciate the beauty of nature, and rest and relax, but not often to explicitly give back to society. With the last point being something that I endeavour to do more of, establishments that place an emphasis on "giving back" naturally resonate with me.
Since its inception, COMO Hotels & Resorts has been supporting local charities in each of its locations worldwide through the COMO Foundation. The staff of each hotel picks the charity that they wish to support. While Uma Ubud chose Sari Hati, COMO Shambhala Estate has been a long-time supporter of Tirta Kumara kindergarten, which I also have the pleasure of visiting on this trip.
With the teachers and students of Tirta Kumara
One of the many colourful classrooms built using funds from COMO and Uma Ubud
Taking the push for philanthropy a step further, guests at COMO properties worldwide are also encouraged to contribute to the local community through COMO's "Purchase with Purpose" programme in collaboration with MasterCard, which has pledged to donate US$25 to community projects each time a guest makes a MasterCard transaction at any of the group's hotels or resorts. The programme runs from October to December each year.
So far, COMO guests have helped to raise over US$100,000 through the "Purchase with Purpose" programme, which has supported a variety of charitable causes in destinations ranging from Bali to the Caribbean.
To find out more about Purchase with Purpose and how you can contribute, visit www.comohotels.com.
About the Author
Dr. Elaine Kim is a doctor in palliative care, and looks after terminally ill patients in their homes with HCA Hospice Care. Outside of medical work, she is a partner in Trinity Bridal, Hong Kong and Trinity Gallery, Singapore—which carry bridal and evening gowns from designers such as Monique Lhuillier and Oscar de la Renta—and designs jewellery for Atelier Solitaire, a fine jewellery brand that she co-founded. Travelling often for work, leisure and volunteer missions, she writes about her trips, regularly contributing tatler_tatler_stories to publications such as Singapore Tatler, and also serves as a travel advisor to luxury travel management, Quintessentially Travel. Elaine is a mother to two boys – Kyan and Luke, and is married to venture capitalist John Kim.