Donor Story: Heidi Hornberger and The Heidi Circle

15 November 2021

Heidi Hornberger is an artist, painter, and sculptor from California, USA. She visited Bali for the first time in 1988 and fell in love with Balinese nature, culture, and people. Her love Bali grew even stronger when she met Balinese dancer and elder, Ni Ketut Cenik, and learned about the spirit (Taksu) that every artist in Bali has when doing their work of art, bringing aliveness to each piece of work created. Since 1998, Heidi has returned to Bali every year, spending time there to recharge and create new art.

When the Bali Bombing happened in 2002, Heidi felt strongly that she had to do something to support the Balinese recover from this tragedy. Through her ex-pat friends in Bali, she met Rucina Ballinger, YKIP Operations Director at the time. Heidi then found out that the economy in Bali was also devastated, and many children were at risk of dropping out of school because their parents could not afford the fees.

Sponsoring KEMBALI Scholarship Program

“I was excited to be able to join this amazing organization, but under the condition that I would be able to be personally involved in the lives of our sponsored families. Rucina was enthusiastic about my desire to be a hands-on sponsor and we agreed to move forward. The first year, after sharing the vision of this project with my family and friends, I had sponsors for 8 elementary school-aged girls. When I returned to Bali I was able to meet the children and their families and my enthusiasm to help many more children get a good education grew”. Heidi explains the first sponsorships made through YKIP KEMBALI Scholarship Program, a scholarship program for students in Elementary School to Senior High School.

This was also the time when Heidi was diagnosed with cancer. This condition intensified her desire to give back. The sponsorship project grew bigger and bigger each year and many sponsors joined the cause, including a number of Americans who traveled to Bali to meet their sponsored children. Over the years, there have been more than 40 sponsors involved in supporting about 80 children. This group,  named the “Heidi Circle” by Rucina Ballinger, has been running for 17 years.

Every time Heidi comes to Bali, she arranges a field trip with the attending sponsors and YKIP staff. She takes the sponsored children on adventures to explore new things: Photography, visiting safari and bird parks, attending various museums, meeting famous dancers, as well as creating art gifts for their sponsors. Heidi has become close with the sponsored students and considers them to be her “adopted children”. Now all but two children have graduated from Senior High School. With the generous support from Heidi Circle donors, some of the students have been able to continue their studies at one-year vocational training schools and 4-year universities.

“Through education, all our Heidi Circle children have been able to get excellent jobs and have broken the chain of poverty that their families had been so severely limited by. Their achievements have gone far beyond my wildest expectations and my involvement in the Heidi Circle has truly been one of the most personally rewarding experiences of my life”.

You can see the Bali-inspired beautiful sculpture and pastel painting by Heidi Hornberger here.