Dennis and Nancy Colbert, of Oakland, are at that stage of their lives -- late 60s, three children, seven grandchildren -- when they're expected to retire, decelerate to a much slower speed, and go softly and quietly into old age.  Not the Colberts, who refuse to act like other seniors. Preferring an accelerator-to-the-floorboard state of mind, they're actively making a huge difference 10,000 miles from home on the Indonesian island of Bali.  They've dedicated themselves to improving the educational quality of Bali schoolchildren, first- through sixth-grades. The Colberts renovated four elementary schools in poor rural areas, and added learning centers to all four schools through their nonprofit Balinese Children's Education Foundation.

What a positive influence the Colberts have been in Bali, not only improving dilapidated school buildings, but also impacting 500 students, who attend school until noon, then voluntarily return in the afternoon for two hours of reading, learning English, and playing educational games.  The couple's fascination with Bali didn't begin with the musical "South Pacific." Nancy's sister, Christina Welty, had retired in Bali. The Colberts visited her there in 2000 and found they couldn't stay away.

"The beauty is just inspiring," said Nancy.  "And the people are very warm and gracious," added Dennis.

Bali's population is 2.5 million -- 90 percent Hindu, 6 to 7

percent Muslim. The island is 90 miles by 60 miles, mostly rice paddies. A Bali night club bombing in 2002 killed 171 and injured 274. But the Colberts insist the island is peaceful.

Dennis was shocked upon first seeing the neglected schools. Seeking something to do as a retired business executive, he found it in Bali. The schools needed extensive repairs, and they needed books. The Colberts came up with the money to buy 2,000 books, while also setting up libraries. And through their foundation, they hired six teachers.

"Their (school) curriculum is totally dictated by the government," said Nancy, a former schoolteacher who now advises college students stateside. "They teach to the test."  "A lot of teaching by rote," noted Dennis.  Thus critical thinking isn't emphasized.  And so the Colberts decided upon learning centers.  "We were very considerate," Dennis said. "Here we are from the United States, knowing this was their culture. So we asked how could we help. The Balinese were receptive."  Bali adults, mostly parents of schoolchildren, filled in holes in classroom floors, laid tile, patched walls, painted and replaced broken windows. Suddenly, going to school was exciting.

The Colberts visit Bali three times a year, staying three, four weeks each trip. When they leave Bali, the students bow, take the Colberts' hands, and put their foreheads against their hands -- an ultimate show of Balinese respect that gets the couple teary-eyed just talking about that emotional scene.

"The greatest thrill is that we're helping these children by adding a little bit to their education," said Dennis, "and by our relationship with the children."  "One of the satisfactions is to find something that we truly love at this point of our lives," said Nancy. "I can't imagine anything that would bring us more pleasure."  The Colberts, who've been married 46 years, wanted to join the Peace Corps as newlyweds. But it didn't work out. Now, in a sense, it's finally happened.  "We've enjoyed the fact that we can be on the ground, working," Dennis said. "And we're thinking of setting up some more libraries at other schools."

The Colberts funded most of the early schoolhouse repairs. Then came their foundation -- they're the only board members. Their website is, and all donations are tax deductible.  "Our goal was not to teach the Balinese children English, but to get them to appreciate and enjoy reading," said Dennis. "Now the children want to take books home at night to read."  Two senior citizens, changing the world.