History

Creating a Vision of Sustainability

Begawan Foundation is the brainchild of Bradley and Debbie Gardner, who were also the creative forces behind the world-renowned Begawan Giri Estate on the Indonesian island of Bali. After discovering this magical spot while holidaying on the island in 1989, the couple formed a vision to create a private estate at Begawan that would be both economically viable and sustain the surrounding villages. Bradley and Debbie began by constructing a bamboo house that served as both their home and their office. Begawan Village had few facilities in 1991. It had no “roads”, just mud paths. There was neither running water, electricity nor telephone lines. The bamboo house was lit by candles and oil lamps. A charcoal-burning oven was built, with large terracotta pots to heat water that had to be carried up a mountain slope from springs located around the estate. But the Gardners persevered, and over the next 10 years, undertook the process of understanding the land, creating the gardens and planning with Malaysian architect Cheong Yew Kuan the creation that followed.

Begawan Giri Estate began to take shape. Right from the outset, the Gardners decided that its landscape should be a key factor. It would be developed without imposing upon it. The materials they chose for building the homes would echo their surroundings. Recycled timber would be used wherever possible. The homes would be integrated naturally with the gardens.

In the early years, the couple spent a lot of time simply sitting in the gardens and understanding the land. They terraced the slope of the mountain and constructed the Water Gardens. The Amphitheatre was created for cultural events that continue today.

More than 2,500 trees were planted on the Estate, including coconuts, mahogany and teak, as well as a bamboo grove. Besides these, the Gardners planted coffee, cacao, aloe vera, lemongrass, cashew nut, and a myriad varieties of banana. Vegetable gardens and fish farms were created, and pig breeding farms constructed with the local farmers, to create sustainable farming and produce supplied to the Estate.

Begawan Foundation is born

In 1999, Bradley and Debbie decided to establish Begawan Foundation as a means to contribute to the local community in the areas of education, health and the environment. Its first initiative was the Bali Starling Conservation Project, which got underway with the arrival of four Bali Starlings brought from England on 24th June 1999.

Education was another focus. In 2000, they started a kindergarten for the children of the surrounding villages. Every morning, the youngsters would come to Begawan Giri Estate, where they were introduced to English via games, books and simple conversation. They also learned about conservation, observed the birds, and took part in gardening. Heads of department and staff were their teachers.

A clinic was established to cater for the healthcare needs of the Estate’s employees and their families. The doctor and nurse there also taught the children about the elements of hygiene and health, in order to ensure that they came to regard healthcare as an integral part of growing up. In addition, the Gardners started to take a personal interest in helping local children suffering from Hirschsprung’s Disease when they discovered that a child of one of their employees was suffering from this congenital disorder. Characterised by the absence of nerve cells in the large intestine, it affects approximately 1 in 5,000 children, mainly boys. Instead of sending children overseas, they ensured that local youngsters suffering from this potentially fatal illness had access to adequate treatment, by bringing in qualified doctors from Singapore to train local doctors.

As the Foundation gathered momentum, the Estate’s commercial activities also flourished. In 2002, the Conde Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Awards voted it No. 1 in its Top 100 “Best of the Best”, while also naming “The Source”, Begawan Giri Estate’s Spa, as the “Best Overseas Hotel Spa of the Year”.

In 2004, the Gardners decided that they had already achieved many of their goals as hoteliers, and that it was time to pursue their other interests. They sold Begawan Giri Estate that year, and they have since devoted their considerable energies to developing the Foundation and its work.

Bradley’s growing concerns about environmental issues also led him to take the initiative in forming The GreenAsia Group in 2007. He sees this as a natural progression of the work that he and Debbie began at Begawan Giri Estate, in terms of contributing to the creation of a greener and more sustainable environment throughout the region and helping communities in some of its least-developed areas. The GreenAsia Group supports Begawan Foundation.

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