The Berkley Composting Method with Justin Robertshaw

This month, we were very lucky to have Justin Robertshaw, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant and Coach & Permaculture Advisor & Practitioner, visit our little tropical island. As a part of their journey towards a Zero Waste Gili Air, Slow Villas & Spa invited Justin to visit Gili Air Elementary School (SD), where he shared his knowledge on composting and permaculture. 

I am a qualified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant with the American Institute of Vedic Studies, run and overseen by Dr David Frawley and upon completion of this course I continued my practical studies over the years interning with the Indian doctors at a highly respected Ayurveda Pancha Karma centre in Asia.

After completing a Permaculture Design Course in 2015 I spent 6 months interning at a Permaculture training centre in Bali and working on various projects in India, (including the International Permaculture Convergence in 2017 and NGO work with Schools in Kashmir) Bali and Portugal, (Mooji Sangha Bhavan).”

My wish is to empower people to lead and maintain a truly holistic life.

Hot Composting

Professor Robert D. Raabe from the University of California has developed a precise compost procedure that uses all four of the compost accelerators – shredding materials, building a big pile, balancing greens and browns, and turning; to create compost in weeks, rather than months. Justin visited Gili Air to tell us more about this method, and we invited locals, expats and the kids of Gili to come join us for an exciting workshop. 

Extra effort on the part of the composter is required in exchange for this time saving, but for those who want large amounts of compost, or for those who wish to convert materials which are usually wasted into usable compost, the effort is worthwhile.

The requirements for hot composting using the Berkley method are as follows:

1.The compost temperature has to be maintained between 55-65 degrees celsius
2.The Carbon – Nitrogen balance in the composting materials have to be approximately 25- 30:1
3.The compost heap needs to be roughly 1.5 meter high
4.Make a hole and add a pole in the middle of the pile – which has to be taken out when pile is made to allow Oxygen to circulate
5.If composting material is high in carbon, such as tree branches, they need to be broken up to smaller peaces 
6.Water has to be added. It’s more effective to soak carbon materials in water before layering into the pile 
7.The compost has to be turned from outside to inside and vice versa to mix it thoroughly. 

With the 18 day Berkley method, the procedure is quite straightforward:

1.Build compost heap – Layering Carbon at bottom and then Nitrogen with Carbon on top
2.Food scraps in the middle – adding accelerators if required/needed
3.Add water
4.4 days – no turning
5.Then turn every 2nd day for 14 days

What’s especially important when it comes to the hot composting method, is the ratio of CARBON to NITROGEN. This means that these two elements are essential to get right in order to get your composting going. As a general rule: 25-30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. This is because the bacteria responsible for the composting process needs these two elements, in these proportions – in order to reproduce and multiply and make the composting work.

Materials high in carbon: Typically dry “brown” materials

-Dried leaves 
-Other woody materials that rot down slowly

Material high in nitrogen: Typically moist “green” materials 

-Lawn / Grass clippings
-Fruit and Vegetable scraps
-Animal manure 
-Green leafy materials that rot down quickly

By getting the Carbon – Nitrogen level is right, you will reach the right technique of fast, aerobic (uses oxygen), hot composting. You will need to use a blend of things that rot quickly and things that rot slowly. But if the Carbon – Nitrogen ratio seems confusing, Justin has a more easy way of doing the hot composting: 

Basically, if you want to to get started in a hurry, aim to use 1/3 Manure and 2/3 dry carbon materials. It will work. Just pile alternating thin layers of greens and browns until you end up with a compost heap that is 1 metre square and a bit taller than that. There’s no real need to get caught up in the mathematics of precise C:N ratios. It’s more a matter of trying it out, though I can’t stress how easy it all is.

Anything that was once living can be hot composted –  All manner of things, including strange additions such as wool and cotton clothing, bones, and leather boots. There’s no trace of the original ingredients when the process is complete! Remember, the greater the variety of ingredients, the better the compost, because it will have a wider range of nutrients in the final product.

A Step by Step Guide to Hot Composting


Mix ingredients together by making thin layers of “greens” and “browns”. Wet the compost so well, so water is dropping out of the bottom and is saturated. 

Put activator in the middle of the compost to start off the compost process. Activators can include: comfrey, nettles, yarrow, animal, fish, urine, or old compost.


Turn the compost heap over. This means, that you have to put the inside of the compost on the outside of the compost. This can be done by moving the outside of the pile to a new spot right next to it, and then move the inside of the old pile to the outside of the new pile. When you’re done, all the material that was inside will be outside and vice versa. 

Ensure that moisture stays constant. Put gloves on and squeeze a handful of the compost materials: It should only release one drop of water. 

DAY 6 – DAY 9

The compost heap should reach its maximum temperature on these days. As a simple guideline: If you can put your arm into the compost up to the elbow, then it is not at 50 degrees Celsius and thereby is not hot enough. It’s better to use a thermometer than your arm. The compost needs a temperature of 55-65 degrees Celsius. 

If the compost is too hot (more than 65 degrees) – a white “mould” will spread throughout the compost. This means that the compost is short of oxygen. It will disappear when the temperature drops. 

Turn the compost heap over every second day (on day 6 and again on day 8).

If compost gets too hot and smelly and thereby goes down in size, it has too much nitrogen. This means, that it needs to slow down. Throw in a handful of sawdust per pitchfork when turning.

DAY 11 – DAY 17

During these days, you should continue to turn the compost every second day. 

DAY 18

The compost should now be warm, dark brown and smell good. When earthworms move into the compost, you know it is finished and ready, because it’s cooled down and full of nutrients.

Important notes: 

-Protect from heavy rain or too much sun 
-Compost heap should be about 1,5m x 1,5m 
-Make the compost where a lot of space is available 
-Water each layer until it is moist as you build the heap 
-Frequent turning and aeration is the secret of successful composting
-Turn the compost using a garden fork, or even better, a long-handled pitchfork
-In cold or wet weather, you can cover the compost heap with a tarp or plastic sheet

How do you feel? Inspired? Let’s get our hands dirty together! Let us know if you would like to know more about composting. Let’s change the world together, one island at a time. Thank you to Justin Robertshaw for coming to Gili Air to teach us and inspire us, and big thanks to Slow Villas & Spa for inviting Justin to our little island.

The story behind 100 hula hoops for children in Lombok

To give joy to children in Lombok as part of the post-disaster trauma relief, a group of similar minded people joined together to donate their support, teachings and hula hoops!

Supporting people of Lombok

The people and buildings of Lombok and the Gilis are slowly recovering from large earthquakes last year in July and August. Over 500 people were killed, over 1000 people were injured, and homes, schools and facilities were destroyed or damaged. Not only is Lombok continuing to heal itself, but the people affected need support in healing from the trauma that this devastation has caused.   

To help the children that have been affected NGOs have and continue to support. The Train of Joy was created after the earthquakes to provide trauma relief programmes and emergency educational services.

CircusAid, founded by Jill Maglio, travels the world to support the relief from mental anguish while helping build resilience through engagement in circus arts. They have been in Lombok since January to support in trauma healing after the earthquakes.

We at the Soraya Foundation and our volunteers have and continue to raise donations, we provide support in education and provide weekly sessions of circus classes to aid in trauma relief.

Giving joy to the children of Lombok

CircusAid and the Soraya Foundation was most recently supported by The Fiery Pixies, Manta Dive Gili Air and Slow Villas & Spa to give back and support the kids. It was a magical moment that saw people with the same mission come together to spread joy, love and much more through circus.

Giving joy to the children of Lombok

CircusAid and the Soraya Foundation was most recently supported by The Fiery Pixies, Manta Dive Gili Air and Slow Villas & Spa to give back and support the kids. It was a magical moment that saw people with the same mission come together to spread joy, love and much more through circus.

How does circus support people?

Circus activities are able to provide therapeutic and educational practices. This increases and promotes independence in the abilities to meet the well-being needs, self-care, leisure and productivity goals. For children in particular circus promotes health and fitness through staying active, and mental well-being through happiness and being part of a group.

The Fiery Pixies coaching children in Lombok

The Hula hoop donation mission!

A kitchen in Gili Air (an island off from Lombok) was turned into a hula hoop factory! The hoops were made out of plastic hose wire by the team. The next day, these 100 hoops were transported by boat and car to Lombok by the team.

Shouniez from the Fiery Pixies
Some of the hula hoop team!
Shaheen and Shouniez Van Der Schyff – The Fiery Pixies
Julie Thonnard – Slow Villas & Spa
Lukas Reimer

During the 100 hoops offering, the team visited The Train of Joy with the offering of the hoops.

The Fiery Pixies and CircusAid did what they do best and brought smiles and laughter to the kids with their tricks and teachings. An uplifting environment was created for the children for them to relax and be free!

They have been taught how to play with the hoops individually and together so that they can continue practising and gain the benefits through staying active.

Check out the beautiful moment for yourself …

Thank you to the children for welcoming the team with your pure spirits and beautiful smiles.

Thanks to everyone who supported 100 hoops!

Big thanks from Soraya Foundation goes to:

Jill Maglio  – CircusAid

Shaheen Van Der Schyff – The Fiery Pixies

Shouniez Van Der Schyff – The Fiery Pixies

Vojta Stolbenko – Vojta’s Flow Arts Videos

Lukas Reimer

Manta Dive Gili Air


Meta Medd

Gabe Knox Monson

Lucia Stewart

Lauren Shepherd

Camp malack

Mollies beach

How can you help Lombok earthquake relief?

Lombok’s people can not be forgotten. The communities need support for daily living, coping through the trauma and rebuilding the island.

There are many ways that you can help, through volunteering, donating, fund raisers, or even just spreading the word, so that more people are aware of the situation.

Please see our ways you can get involved section.

Meet the People of Gili: Pak Mus

This is Pak Mus. He teaches at Gili Air SD primary school, but he is much more than that to the community. Everyone knows him and loves him. As a teacher since 1990, he has now taught two generations of people on Gili Air, which means he is now teaching the children of his original students! Mus is a humble, well educated man who travels between Lombok and Gili Air to support his family. When he is not teaching, he is selling bungkus to school staff and the locals,  and bracelets to the tourists.

I see him walking toward me with a big smile. He radiates a coolness, a sense of relaxation and approachability.

He shakes my hand and leads me to a bench on the beach.

I’ve heard the people of Gili really love you, they have such nice things to say about you. What’s your favorite thing about Gili Air?
“We still have more friendly people. We really care about our families, we still have that. Sometimes you go to Gili Trawangan, eh, you don’t see it so much now.”

And your work, what specifically do you love about your work and the time you’ve spent doing it?
“Ah, teaching, yea. I love it. I love my teaching. Because the kids stay close with me, yea. I didn’t come for one day and every kid asks me “AHHH, where were you?!” Yeah, teacher is good job. Must do it with heart.”

And do most of the kids stay in the area, or on the island?
“Oh yes, all of them.”

Whats your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
“Oh, you know I try to always sell. You know maybe when I retire i’ll just sell more jewelry.”

Were you here for the earthquake?
“Yea, I was at home during the earthquake. Six o’clock I leave from Gili Air, got home seven o’clock… earthquake nearly 8 o’clock. After shower, after dinner, earthquake come. It was very bad for my family. We have 6 kids… I had to look for my kids, find where they are. I have twins stay at grandmas and another kid stay at aunts, ah really hard to find them.”

But Everyone was ok?
“Yea, everybody ok. Also my house was ok, a little bit bad, but just a little. Some people lost much more.”

How did that affect the kids at the school?
“Mhmm, mhmm, after the earthquake,… two weeks after that we go back to school, we give the kids trauma healing. We give the kids more time, get them to still play on and study on. We call parents and see how they are. We teach them what to do, where to go if there is another earthquake.”

So what is the best thing that visitors can do to help?
“The school is welcome for anyone. It’s good for us, good for the kids. It’s fun to have them. We can study more of the culture, western culture.”

So do the kids like it? Learning about western culture from foreigners?
“Yea yea yea! Like what I said before, we are from Gili. Here we say welcome to the tourists. But we must study from the tourists because they bring more positive things. They are more disciplined, yea that’s good. And when the tourists come here our economy is better. After the earthquake, no tourists, very bad for our economy.”

Can you share a fun fact about yourself? Like.. whats your favorite local food?!
oh!!! Gado gado!! Boiled potato with peanut sauce, a little bit chili. Can put egg or tofu on top. Just a little bit of chili, not too spicy!

Mus then smiles, and looks anxiously to his right. There is a boat waiting for him to take him home to Lombok for the afternoon. I thank him for sharing with me.

He grabs my hands, gives me a smile and a thumbs up and trots down to the water.

Hoola Hoops for everybody!

Since the Lombok earthquake, which happened on the 5th of August, we’ve been running a trauma recovery and moving on program. Mainly organising social circus workshops in Gili Air‘s elementary school (SD), and in Camp Pamenang, in Lombok.

Our dream?

Hoola Hoops for everybody!

With lots of help from several volunteers from the worldwide Circus Family, I

We’ve been able to keep the program running, for the people of Lombok and Gili. The best is, the kids absolutely Love it! If you are reading this and you love this idea, or you know someone that would love the idea, please, as we say in French “Faites passer le mot!”, help us spread the word, towards the circus community worldwide! Lets keep creating Magic for the community!

Together with the Fiery Pixies, we are planning to make around 100 hoola hoops for the people of Lombok.

Have you heard of them?

Two playful pixies who love to flow, play, dance and spin together. Through sharing our passion for flow and movement with the world, we remind people that magic still exists. We LOVE them!

The plan is to drive around Lombok and visit as many camps as possible in North Lombok, host social circus workshops and give all the kids hoops. Since the Lombok earthquake, the people of Lombok have lost everything. Basically all of North Lombok is flat. Over 300.000 people displaced, which means they currently have no home. Either the earthquake distroyed their home, or their home was considered unsafe and they had to demolish it. Can you imagine loosing your home? Most of them worked their entire life to pay for their homes. Now they live in tents. As they are waiting for the government to help them rebuild. We’ve managed to raise almost enough money to rebuild 11 homes. Nevertheless we’d like to help all the others with our trauma recovery and moving on program.

Being a victim myself of the Lombok Earthquake, I know exactly what PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, feels like now. Lucky me! Learning everyday! It basically means that as soon as the ground shakes just a little bit, for example in an elevator, a wooden house in windy season, a bridge, even the thunder actually sounds exactly like the start of an earthquake,… How can I discribe it? Your heart literally stops, you freeze and panic. Then you get a hold of yourself and laugh at yourself, if you’re lucky. Social Circus is actually fabulous to move on. Thinking about something else, circus is the perfect combination of creativity, physical exercise, coordination, and fun! A perfect blend for PTSD if you ask me. Lets play!

Lucky’s Bar our First Regular Sponsor in Gili

Lets Dance at Lucky’s Guys! Its all for a good cause! For Gili Air! Its official, every party organised, Lucky’s Bar has agreed to donate to the Soraya Foundation. Which officially makes them the first regular sponsor of the Soraya Foundation! We couldn’t be happier! It warms our heart to have a regular local sponsor from the island. Gili Air, we love you. Thank you for your support Lucky’s Bar! 

What do we do?

  • Education: Community Classes at Gili Air’s elementary school (SD): English Class, Anglung Music Classes, Social Circus, plastic free paradise kits for the kids
  • Education: Gili Air’s first Montessori Playground
  • Lombok Earthquake Relief Program

What to we want to do?

  • Waste and water management Gili Air: implement compost, permaculture garden and water collection system for businesses and personal properties
  • We dream of Gili Air:  Zero Waste island
  • Protect the Marine Ressources of Gili Air: 4 more Bio Rock Reef Restauration for Gili Air

Also most welcome to pitch us your ideas, we’ll be happy to make them reality if its what we believe in.

If these are causes you believe in. Sponsor us! Donate! Dance at Lucky’s!  Organise a fundraising event in your home or business. Because we care and we’ll make a difference. Lets change the world together, one island at a time. 

Our Story?

Its just over a year ago that we started the Soraya Foundation. Valentina, my partner, shared with me her dream. Her dream was to start a Montessori Playground for her daughter, Soraya. Wanting kids of my own one day, I thought it was a brilliant idea and told her, I’d support her fully.

When I consulted my consultant in Lombok to know what type of paperwork we needed to create a Montessori inspired playground, she told me I needed to start a foundation.

You know that feeling you sometimes get? When you feel like you are exactly where you are supposed to be? I felt this light, flowing through my body. Because I always had this little voice in my head telling me.

“Give something back to the island! “

“Give something back to the island!”

“Give something back to the island! “

What better then education? One school to support the other. It just felt like destiny.

We started in August 2017 with community classes, first English, then Music Anglung classes, we raised money to buy a plastic free paradise kit for all the kids with Gili shark Conservation and since this year we offer social circus classes, part of our earthquake relief program, after Lombok and the Gili islands got hit by several earthquakes. The kids simply love it. It so nurturing to be able to make them smile after what they’ve been through. There is no better way then to do trauma healing then circus workshops. Great for coordination, creativity, discipline, physical education,…  Plus, it will most certainly be a good baggage for their future. English is clearly useful, as most of them will work in tourism. Music education can help spark a child’s imagination or ignite a lifetime of passion.

We thought, why stop here? Lets get involved and improve waste and water management, lets regenerate the coral reefs, in partnership with Gili Eco Trust and add some Bio Rock Reef Restauration to Gili Air. We have plenty of good ideas, now all we need is funding. Who wants to sponsor our dreams?

We’ve also started with micro finance. We call it sponsor a dream. The locals bring us a project and we coach them into making it a successful reality. Inspired yet?

We create Magic for Gili Air. That’s what we do. If you want to sponsor us. Thanks to all of you, we can help all of them. Namaste.

Yoga with Steffi to Repair Gili schools

SDN 1 Gili Indah and Gili Playground is located in Gili Air, North Lombok. One is created to support the other. And yet, both are shaken and need major repair after series of earthquakes shaken the island.

August 5th is the day we were challenged to fix our schools, 7.0 SR quakes shaken our island caused terrifying damage, SDN 1 Gili Indah is the only primary school in the Island so far with more than 240 students. Even before it was damaged the school wasn’t in good condition at all, roofs are leaking, hole on the ceiling, and walls needs to be fixed and repainted. The old house we rent for Gili Playground wasn’t in a good condition either since the beginning. This condition leaves the students in trauma, refusing to study in in the classes.

On October 4th we had a team of engineers and architect to come and check the schools, marking which rooms is safe and which rooms are not, noting down what need to be fixed. A week later, we had the result that most of the classroom in SDN 1 Gili Indah need to be fixed by filling the cracks, then all the fences and gate need to be rebuild. On other hand, the building we rent to have Gili Playground had major damage where all the roof and some walls need to be taken down. Gili Playground is currently using one of our friend’s place to keep it going, it is beautiful how the community helps each other at situation like this, but we know better we can’t use her place forever.

We are urgently looking for donation. All of the money will be donated to Soraya Foundation who will execute the repairmen and construction of both schools. It was a formidable task, being given a task of renovating a school broken down due natural disaster, lack of funding and negligence of government. We haven’t started the work and need urgent need help. Please help us give more than 240 students a new beginning. Any amount to help reach our goal will be greatly appreciated.

We’ll take photos and videos of the school and students, so you can see exactly where your generous donations went!

How it all began…

How are new projects born? We follow our dreams, they know the way. Then, if you put everything you have into it, success is the only way out.

One day Valentina came to see me, Julie. She told me that she’d like to start a Montessori inspired kinder-garden in Gili Air for her daughter, Soraya. Of course, it can also be for all other kids of Gili Air, otherwise it will be a lonely one.

I immediately found the project inspiring and became part of the adventure. Continue reading “How it all began…”

Conservation classes and NO single-use plastic free kit for the kids

Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.

I’m so happy & proud to announce that from November, my friend Rose and the Gili Shark Conservation Project team will start to organize conservation classes for the children of Gili Air. But there is more; they want to give the children the tools to say “no” to plastic. It’s our dream to put together a “PlasticFreeParadise kit” which we will hand out to the kids during the conservation classes.
Continue reading “Conservation classes and NO single-use plastic free kit for the kids”

Circus Show at Gili Air SD school

soraya foundation

The Circus Show at Gili Air’s primary school has become an appointment no child of the island would miss. Coming to its 4th edition, once again a group of professional jugglers, performers, clowns and acrobats are coming to Gili Air and amaze the audience with incredible circus tricks.

The show is open to anyone who would like to have a laugh, be amazed, 
spend a different morning and contribute to the community.
Continue reading “Circus Show at Gili Air SD school”