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We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give – Winston S. Churchill.

The term “giving back” sounds inspiring yet also a little overwhelming at the same time. Often, we see giving back as an act that can only be done at a certain level of success in life when in fact, it actually can be done in many ways, at any time and by anyone. During our journey in providing better education facilities in underprivileged areas of Indonesia, we met extraordinary people who dedicate their lives to give back to the community by providing access to education for children in remote areas, despite their challenges. Meet two inspiring women who showed us an amazing spirit of giving back.

Saving money to afford a piece of land for a decent early childhood school

Ibu Adilla, an early childhood educator from Kota Cilegon, Banten had been dreaming of the day her students could learn in a proper classroom. The emergency learning space, which was made of plywoods and asbestos roof where she conducted learning activities for young children in her village, was no longer enough to accommodate all students or to implement the latest teaching method she just learned back then. When Happy Hearts Indonesia (HHI) visited the school and discussed the rebuilding opportunity, she got really excited. Unfortunately, the land was not ready as HHI does not provide funding for the land. 

“Can HHI give me some time to save money and buy the land? I promise I will have the land ready next year,” she said. A year went by when she got back to informing us that she had bought the land and even flatten the ground, ready to be built on. Together with her husband, she had saved her own money for a year although that means she had to cut some of her family expenses. We were amazed by her dedication to providing a decent learning environment for her students and giving back to the underprivileged community she lives in. Long story short, with the support from the CSR program of PT Chandra Asri Petrochemical, the school construction was completed by the end of 2018. Ibu Ade, her fellow teachers and her students could finally conduct much comfortable and effective learning activities in two safe, permanent classrooms built by HHI. Additionally, they also got a teacher’s room, a toilet and additional educational toys.

Ibu Adillah, some of her students and the representatives from PT Chandra Asri Petrochemical during the inauguration of the new school building

Last year, the number of students in PAUD Widuri, the school founded by Ibu Ade, had significantly increased. 78 students are now enrolled in this school to receive early childhood education. The teachers have also been involved in a number of capacity building training including the ones facilitated by HHI. Significant progress in the quality of education in PAUD Widuri has been seen. This school has been winning various competitions both in the students and teachers category. Recently, it was also chosen as one of the pilot schools by the local education office. If it was not for Ibu Ade’s commitment to serve her students and to give back to her community, we haven’t probably witnessed this tremendous impact. 

Leaving the monastic life to serve underprivileged children

Choosing a monastic life is often a choice made with a lot of sacrifices. The process needed to pursue that life is also not easy and it takes quite a long time. Like many others in her area, Mama Agnes, a middle-aged woman from Southwest Sumba, also chose to devote her life to the church at a very young age. However, after years of moving from one place to another to serve the church, she realized that there was another form of service that seems to suit her values better, which is taking care of underprivileged children in her hometown on Sumba Island, NTT. After careful consideration, Mama Agnes decided to follow her call. She left the monastic life and moved back to Sumba to start an orphanage called Hati Nurani. 30 children are now being taken care of in this place including five children with disabilities. To support the operation of this orphanage, Mama Agnes and her siblings have been working as a subsistence farmer.

Mama Agnes sitting with Gaby, one of the children with disabilities, and Gunawan Salim, CMO of Asuransi Astra that supported the construction of PAUD Hati Nurani

In 2014, with the support from her siblings and a couple of teachers, she started to provide early childhood education for the young children of the orphanage by using her terrace and living room as the classrooms. This school is called PAUD Hati Nurani which was later joined by other children from the surrounding area. Last year, with the support from Asuransi Astra, HHI built two new and safer classrooms equipped with proper furniture and educational toys to support PAUD Hati Nurani. Today, 56 students are enrolled in this school as Mama Agnes and the teachers are working to improve their capacity. 

Learning activities in the new classrooms of PAUD Hati Nurani

The decision to leave a comfortable life to serve and give back to the community in her hometown is paid off. Now, Mama Agnes feels much more content by spending most of her time taking care of the children. “I am happy with my life. These children mean a lot to me. However, I have one more dream which is to provide special education for the children who live with disabilities. We only have one special school here in this regency and it’s not enough to accommodate all children in need. We don’t have the capability and facility yet but you see, we prayed for the classrooms and God answered our prayer through HHI. I believe He’ll answer this one too,” said Mama Agnes. She has been giving back and dedicating her life to serve others yet still wanting to give more and more.

Those stories are just two of many inspiring ones that picture the spirit of giving back. The stories could come from the people who are serving on the ground like Ibu Adillah and Mama Agnes, or from the donors like PT Chandra Asri Petrochemical and PT Asuransi Astra. It is shown that everyone, both individual or corporate, could actually give back to the community in their own way.

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